Tuesday, October 16, 2012

CFPB Update

The 112th Congress may be winding down, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) keeps chugging. Before Congress scurried off home for electioneering in September, CFPB Director Richard Cordray paid a visit to both the Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee for a biannual update on the Bureau’s activities. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) even quipped that Director Cordray “made some news” during his appearance on September 20. Yes, it’s news when an Administration official appears before Congress and says something of interest.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is poised to
issue two important proposed rules on overdraft
protection and prepaid cards.
What did Cordray say of interest? At issue is the 2009 CARD Act’s “ability to pay” rule. The Federal Reserve Board had responsibility for the implementing this provision of the CARD Act (the CFPB had not existed at this time). The Board created a uniform standard requiring all consumers to demonstrate “an independent ability to repay.” The Board’s rule took effect October 1, 2011 and almost immediately Congress began asking questions on the rule’s impact on stay-at-home spouses and their ability to obtain credit. Dodd-Frank gave the CFPB rule-making authority over Regulation Z (Truth in Lending). At another House Financial Services Committee hearing during the summer, Gail Hillebrand of the CFPB did not appear very sympathetic to opening up the rule again. But Cordray believe enough evidence had been produced to warrant a new rule that would disadvantage stay-at-home spouses who may ample “household income” to secure credit. CFPB will likely issue the revised rule for public comment later this year or early 2013.

Senate and House leaders also expressed concerns with CFPB’s final rule on international remittance transfers (Sec. 1073 of Dodd-Frank). Several House members wrote Cordray in August asking for a delay in the effective date (February 2013) while the CFPB studies its impact on consumers. The CFPB’s rule on international remittance transfers required several disclosures to be made to consumers including exchange rates and fees charged by other entities and taxes to be charged by foreign governments. The only relief CFPB has given to exempt those financial institutions providing less than 100 remittances annually from the new disclosure rules. I do not expect this will be the last we hear of this issue. How far will consumer choice be limited as institutions exit the business because compliance requirements are not financially viable? Stay tuned.

Looking ahead to 2013, the CFPB is poised to issue two important proposed rules on overdraft protection and prepaid cards. EFTA has provided comment to the Bureau on both subjects in 2012 as part of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule-Making. Gov. Mitt Romney also called out the Bureau for slow progress on issuing rules on qualified mortgages. Expect some busy beavers in the hallways and offices of the CFPB in the weeks and months ahead.

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