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Media Coverage

Consumer financial agency quiet about enforcement — though that may soon change

12 September 2012
The National Law Journal
By Jenna Greene

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on September 12 released its second semi-annual report to President Barack Obama and Congress, but what's notable is what it doesn't reveal.

The 82-page report contains a total of four sentences about the Office of Enforcement — even though the category "Supervision, Enforcement, Fair Lending" accounted for a hefty $63 million in agency spending through June 2012 — almost a quarter of all CFPB expenditures.

According to the report, the Office of Enforcement, which is headed by Kent Markus, "has been conducting research and investigations of potential violations of federal consumer financial laws." Also, the office "has endeavored to focus its investigative resources on the violations of law that cause the greatest harm to consumers."

The report continues, "The investigations currently underway span the full breadth of the Bureau's enforcement jurisdiction. Further detail about ongoing investigations will not generally be made public by the Bureau until a public enforcement action is filed."

Vague language aside, lawyers say they expect to see more enforcement actions soon.

"There is much going on behind the scenes, much more than meets the public eye," said Donald Lampe, leader of Dykema Gossett's financial services regulatory and compliance team. "I think what we're seeing is them being very deliberate in their approach….After the election and into the new year, I expect we'll see more of a public face to the enforcement actions."

In a July survey of 50 in-house lawyers, compliance and business professionals by Mayer Brown, 12 percent reported that their companies had been contacted or subpoenaed by the CFPB in relation to an examination or investigation. The Associated Press reports that the CFPB has issued more than 100 subpoenas to companies demanding data, testimony and marketing materials.

In July, the CFPB brought its first two enforcement actions. The agency charged Capital One Bank with deceptively marketing add-on credit card services such as credit monitoring and payment protection plans. The bank agreed to pay a total of $210 million to settle the government charges.

The agency also sued Los Angeles lawyer Chance Gordon and his firm, The Gordon Law Firm, for allegedly duping distressed homeowners into paying high upfront fees with false promises of a loan modification.

As of June 30, the CFPB had 889 employees — including 49 percent women, 33 percent minority, according to the semi-annual report.

CFPB head Richard Cordray will testify before the Senate Banking Committee September 13 about the report. According to an advance copy of his remarks, he'll tell committee members that the CFPB has been "using all of the tools at our disposal to help protect consumers across this country. We pledge to continue our work to promote a fair, transparent, and competitive consumer financial marketplace."

Reprinted with permission from the September 12, 2012 edition of The National Law Journal © 2012 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.

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