Consumer bureau’s work ‘confusing,’ ‘duplicative,’ Chamber says

David Hirschmann, the Chamber’s senior vice president, sent a letter last week to CFPB Director Richard Cordray offering six suggestions for how the agency could “eliminate inefficiency and unjustified burdens" in its oversight role. He said the bureau is often making “extremely expansive requests for information” that date back more than a decade, creating huge costs for companies.  

“It effectively gives carte blanche to Bureau investigators to impose huge financial burdens on companies at the outset of an investigation,” Hirschmann wrote. “We are not aware of any other agency that routinely issues such broad demands.”

The Chamber criticized the bureau for bringing enforcement attorneys to examination meetings, a practice that Hirschmann said sets an “adversarial” tone at the agency. 

The CFPB says attorneys are permitted to join the examination meetings to stay informed about the issues facing the agency. The presence of the attorneys is not meant to signal to a company that an enforcement action is imminent, according to the bureau.  

Hirschmann also alleged that the CFPB refuses to correct errors in examination documents, “requiring companies to invoke the complex examination review system in order to correct even the most obvious of errors (presumably because a correction would mean the embarrassment of returning the letter to supervisors in Washington who then would become aware of the factual error).”

The Chamber notes that it sent the bureau a similar letter in July without seeing action on most of its suggestions.

“The effect of this continued uncertainty and inefficiency is not simply to impose excessive, unjustified costs on legitimate businesses seeking to comply with the law — it directly constrains the lending, especially lending to small businesses that our economy desperately needs in order to grow and create jobs for the millions of Americans who remain unemployed,” Hirschmann wrote.

The CFPB was created by the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, and has faced a torrent of opposition from business groups and Republican lawmakers who say it is unaccountable. The bureau says that it doesn't "seek to burden industry beyond what is necessary to comply with the law and protect consumers."

The Chamber said its letter to Cordray should not be interpreted as taking a position on the legality of his tenure. 

A federal court last month cast doubt on Cordray’s position by overturning recess-appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). President Obama recess-appointed Cordray as CFPB director at the same time.