Has the CFPB Gone ‘Rogue’? (Reverse Mortgage Daily)

By Jason Oliva

One U.S. senator seems to think so, introducing new legislation this week that would provide more oversight to the controversial federal agency.

Congressional lawmakers continue to push legislation to bring more accountability to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), with several bills having already been introduced this year in efforts to achieve this. And now there is yet another proposed bill that seeks to further the cause. 

Introduced Tuesday by Senator David Perdue (R-Ga.), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Accountability Act of 2015 aims to make the agency more accountable to the American people by bringing it under the congressional appropriations process.

“Right now the CFPB is a rogue agency that dishes out malicious financial policy and creates new rules and regulations at whim without real congressional oversight,” Perdue said in a written statement. “The American people, through Congress, deserve a closer look at the CFPB and how its actions will impact consumers.”

No stranger to controversy, the CFPB has often caught the ire of those on Capitol Hill who claim the federal agency oversteps its authority since it is not subject to congressional appropriations for its budget like many federal agencies. Currently, the CFPB operates under the Federal Reserve.

Dodd-Frank established the CFPB’s budget at as much as 12% of the Fed’s annual operating expense, which Perdue notes is roughly $600 million per year without any congressional oversight of the agency’s spending.

CFPB’s spending has long been criticized by congressional lawmakers, perhaps most vocally by the House Financial Services Committee, whose Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) last summer called the agency’s more than $215 million spent on renovating its headquarters “outrageous.”

The total spend was estimated to be more expensive than what it had cost to build New York’s Trump World Tower and the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

“Additionally, the agency itself has failed to operate within its own budget and proven it is more concerned with preserving its own power than protecting the public,” Perdue said. “Ultimately, I believe the CFPB should be eliminated, but an important first step is bringing it into the light for the American people.”

Sen. Perdue’s efforts to reform the CFPB have already earned support from several consumer and taxpayer advocacy groups who agree that the federal watchdog needs more oversight than it has today.

Because the CFPB makes all consumer protection rules, which set the tone for compliance examinations of every bank, regardless of size and regulator conducting the exam, it is important that the agency has increased accountability, according to the Georgia Bankers Association (GBA). 

“Instead of spending thousands of hours responding to inconsequential concerns that don’t pose significant consumer risks, traditional bankers’ time could be better spent on serving the needs of the families and businesses in their communities,” said Joe Brannen, president and CEO of the GBA, in a written statement.

The CFPB is an agency that demands scrutiny like any other federal agency and should be held accountable for their actions by moving into the proper process for congressional appropriations, said David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

“Any federal agency operating with the use of taxpayer funds must be subject to oversight by the elected officials that represent those taxpayers in Washington,” Williams said. 

Even the U.S. Consumer Coalition agreed with the sentiments introduced by Sen. Perdue’s legislation. 

“The CFPB represents the greatest threat to consumer choice and freedom this country has seen in a long time,” said Sarah Makin, on behalf of the Coalition. “With the enforcement authority of the DOJ, and the regulatory authority of the FDIC, this unaccountable agency has limitless power to impact the lives of Americans. While there may be a role for the CFPB, we applaud Senator Perdue for working to protect consumers from the so-called consumer protector.”