While debates rage on over the discovery of what may be fake comments submitted during the Federal Communication Commission’s public review of net neutrality rules, new and similar accusations focus on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) has sent a letter to CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney “requesting an investigation into the widespread submission of fake public comments during consideration of the payday lending rule.”

Pallone also joined three other Democratic Committee Ranking Members in requesting a formal inquiry by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine whether the submission of fraudulent comments at numerous agencies, including CFPB, violated federal law. 

“I also urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that such interference in the comment process is prevented going forward.” Pallone wrote to Mulvaney. 

A recent investigative report by The Wall Street Journal uncovered millions of fraudulent comments at five federal agencies, including the CFPB.  As many as 40 percent of the comments submitted to CFPB in opposition to the payday lending rulemaking appear to be fake, using stolen or obsolete email accounts. “Even more insidious, false comments opposing consumer safeguards were submitted under the names of victims of predatory lending practices, including one woman who ended up owing more than $8,000 on a $323 payday loan,” Pallone wrote. “As you work to determine who was involved and to hold them accountable, you must also adopt procedures to ensure that such foul play cannot continue. The public comment process simply should not be undermined in this way.”