On October 18, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published a draft Strategic Plan for FY 2018–2022 and invited comment by November 18, 2017. The draft is organized around four overarching goals:
- Prevent financial harm to consumers while promoting good practices that work for consumers, responsible providers, and the economy as a whole.
- Empower consumers to make informed financial choices to reach their own life goals and enhance their own financial well-being.
- Inform the public, policy makers, and the CFPB’s own policy-making with market intelligence and data-driven analysis of consumer financial markets and consumer behavior.
- Advance the CFPB’s performance by maximizing resource productivity.
While these goals, and the draft plan as a whole, do not represent any major departures from the Bureau’s existing operations, a close read of the plan reveals some noteworthy details.
- The draft repeatedly indicates that the Bureau will consider “alternative” strategies and approaches to address market issues, which presumably contemplates actions other than notice-and-comment rulemakings.
- The draft plan also states that the Bureau’s Division of Supervision, Enforcement, and Fair Lending will launch a pilot project to “expand Supervision’s capacity and flexibility to address consumer harm by conducting supervisory activities to supplement the traditional examination process.” The initiative is described in high-level terms, but it signals a willingness to go beyond the roles and processes of the traditional prudential regulators.
- The Bureau intends to provide market participants with “tools and resources” to assist with implementing and complying with consumer financial rules. The draft does not offer specifics on this point, but regulated entities would certainly welcome more assistance and certainty in complying with Bureau rules. One specific welcome possibility would be for the CFPB to develop a more robust guidance process as part of this initiative.
- The draft strategic plan states that the CFPB’s Division of Research, Markets, and Regulations will launch a program to review existing regulations to “assess opportunities for clarification, updating, and streamlining.” The CFPB already reviews regulations pursuant to a Dodd-Frank Act requirement to conduct an assessment of each significant rule five years after its adoption. The draft strategic plan may indicate further efforts to develop a more formal and regular program that would supplement these one-time assessments.
- The draft indicates that the Bureau will continue sharing information and coordinating activities with other supervisory and law enforcement agencies. It also recommits the Bureau to sharing consumer complaint data within the CFPB, presumably enabling those complaints to inform supervisory and enforcement decisions. Responsiveness to those complaints should clearly continue to be a priority for regulated entities.
- Finally, the draft strategic plan makes apparent that the Bureau intends to continue collecting substantial amounts of consumer data. This has long been a controversial aspect of the Bureau’s operations, but the Bureau does not seem deterred by such concerns.
Given that these and other issues may have significant impacts on regulated entities, it would be advisable for regulated entities to consider ways to take advantage of the comment period.