The CFP-Who?

The folks at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are under the impression that they are saving the American people from the evils of the financial services industry. Unfortunately for the CFPB, it appears that the majority of Americans never heard of the agency.

Earlier this summer, Zogby Analytics and the U.S. Consumer Coalition conducted a poll to determine how Americans view the various federal regulatory agencies. Only 19 percent of those contacted for the poll admitted that they were familiar with the CFPB – which might be fairly depressing, especially when one considers that one-quarter of those polled were unfamiliar with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, roughly one-third were unfamiliar with the Federal Reserve and more than half were unfamiliar with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Perhaps the MBA should offer courses in geology, since a lot of people appear to be living under that proverbial rock.

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In any event, those that were familiar with the CFPB had a favorable view of the agency (31 percent, compared with 14 percent indicating unfavorable views – everyone else had no opinion one way or the other). But it appeared that many people had no clue what the CFPB was doing. Let me share this information from the poll’s published results:

“More Americans are doubtful that the CFPB can ‘protect credit card information and personal data … from hackers’ than believe it has the capability,” the poll report stated. “One in three disagreed (34 percent) and only 29 percent agreed. Nor were they confident that the agency is ‘safeguarding credit card data… and will do everything possible to prevent it from getting it into the wrong hands. One in three agreed (35 percent) while 26 percent disagreed – but the remainder (40 percent) was either not familiar or not sure … Only 8 percent said that the CFPB’s data collection is better than NSA’s reviewing of domestic phone and text records, 12 percent said it is worse, and 43 percent said it is about the same.”

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After all of these years, it is more than a little pathetic that so many people have no clue Richard Cordray and his mischief makers are actually doing. But that is not to say that they’ve been completely off the radar. Case in point: the CFPB’s Consumer Complaint Database, which is chock-a-block with endless ranting and raving from unhappy Americans that have a bone to pick with their lenders. There have been thousands of complaints posted in this online database, but there is a big problem: the vast majority of them are unsubstantiated.

All of the major financial services trade associations have complained about this thoroughly misleading attack on the integrity and reputations of private sector lenders. Steve O’Connor, the MBA’s senior vice president of public policy and industry relations, probably said it best in a recent letter to Cordray.

“In MBA’s view, because more than 80 percent of complaints do not require action beyond an explanation, posting these unsubstantiated complaint narratives will only mislead the consumers the CFPB is charged with protecting,” O’Connor wrote. “We therefore urge that complaints be verified before narratives are posted. At the very least, the CFPB should establish procedures to take down complaints not requiring action.”

To date, Cordray and his team have publicly ignored the complaints about their complaint database – much the way they ignore any complaints leveled against this agency (cost overruns on the new headquarters, racial and gender discrimination in personnel policies, refusing to extend a good faith period following the implementation of the TRID guidelines, etc.)

And while the American public is, mercifully, lucky that they never heard of this mismanaged agency, the financial services world has the misfortune has the misfortune to be stuck with this bunch and their bumbling.

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