THE LEADERSHIP OF the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is required by law to hold in-person meetings with its consumer advisory board, yet according to more than a dozen of its members, they are refusing to do so.
“It appears the bureau does not want to engage with us,” said Ann Baddour of the consumer organization Texas Appleseed and chair of the current Consumer Advisory Board, or CAB, who joined a conference call Monday with other board members who have decided to speak publicly. “Staying silent would violate our ethical responsibility to the bureau and the American people.”
The CFPB, under Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, has canceled two in-person meetings with the CAB, as well as numerous conference calls. Contact has been limited to one phone call in March that was supposed to last one hour but ended after 20 minutes. The most recent cancellation was for a scheduled meeting this week; members only found out about it when they coordinated with CFPB to make travel arrangements.
Section 1014 of Dodd-Frank mandates the creation of a consumer advisory board of experts to consult with the CFPB about emerging practices and concerns within the lending industry and across the country. The board, whose 25 members are drawn from academia, consumer groups, and the financial services industry, “at a minimum, shall meet at least twice in each year,” per the statute.
Under previous CFPB Director Richard Cordray, the CAB met in two-day sessions three times a year, with Cordray or senior staff present for the entire period. The CAB would discuss rule-making, enforcement issues, financial education materials, and more. “Since the change in leadership we’ve seen a change in the lines of communication,” Baddour said.
CAB members released two letters to Mulvaney, one from May 18 from Baddour, and another from 15 members on May 25, after they learned of the most recent cancellation. “The undersigned members of the CAB are extremely concerned that that our collective input is not valued,” the members wrote.