The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has long been a bogeyman of Republican critics. Since its creation, various bills have attempted to limit its scope, replace its single director with a five-member board, and bring its budget, currently drawn from the Federal Reserve, under Congressional review.
A vote this week by the House of Representatives may signal that concerns are more bipartisan that past rhetoric would suggest. A bill authored by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Financial Services Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee—H.R. 1265, the Bureau Advisory Commission Transparency Act—passed with a 401 to 2 vote and will now head to the Senate.
The legislation would require the CFPB and any advisory committee it establishes, to comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. It establishes requirements for the qualifications of committee members, the timeliness and objectivity of advice provided to federal agencies, and the public availability of information about activities of advisory committees, including meeting notices, records, and minutes. Only four government agencies are not covered by FACA: the CFPB, Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Federal Reserve.
“Recently, the CFPB proved, once again, that it is secretive business as usual at the agency,” Duffy said in a statement. “Despite announcing that they would comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act and open their meetings to the public, the CFPB’s Credit Union and Community Bank Advisory Committees continue to meet behind closed doors. Since the CFPB will not be forthcoming with the American people, this bill will mandate it.”
A study by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington D.C. think tank, was also critical of the CFPB’s perceived lack of transparency. It cited the fact that the CFPB has, traditionally, not published notice of any of its field hearings in the Federal Register, opting instead to post notices on its blog “just a few days in advance of a hearing” and often without “the level of disclosure typically found in Federal Register notices from other regulators.” In numerous instances, it failed to provide any advance notice of hearings and limited attendance to personally invited consumer groups, industry members, and government officials.