The Dodd-Frank Act granted the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the authority to combat “unfair, deceptive, or abusive” practices in the consumer finance industry. While the meaning of “unfair” and “deceptive” acts is reasonably clear, the definition of “abusive” remains, in the words of CFPB Director Richard Cordray, “a little bit of a puzzle.” Moreover, the guidance that the CFPB has published contributes only the quixotic advisory that the definitions of unfair, deceptive and abusive acts are separate yet overlapping. We review the handful of enforcement actions brought by the CFPB alleging abusive practices, seeking clues to understand the evolving “abusiveness” standard.
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