On February 21, 2018, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “Bureau” or “CFPB”) issued a Request for Information (“RFI”) seeking comments and information from the public regarding the Bureau’s public and non-public external engagements, including but not limited to field hearings, town halls, roundtables, and meetings of the Advisory Board and Councils.  The Bureau intends to use the comments received to better understand how it may improve or revise its engagements to better achieve its statutory objectives.  This RFI is the fifth in a call for evidence from Acting Director Mick Mulvaney to “ensure the Bureau is fulfilling its proper and appropriate functions to best protect consumers.”

As noted above, the RFI identifies four types of public and non-public external engagements:  field hearings, town halls, roundtables, and meetings of the Advisory Board and Councils.  Field hearings focus on a specific topic and are open to the public and announced on the Bureau’s website.  While field hearings are held in geographically diverse locations throughout the United States, they are also livestreamed on the Bureau’s website.  Town halls may be public or invitation-only, and are typically organized around a specific topic or financial education.  Roundtables are invitation-only events with the Bureau to discuss particular issues with interested parties.  Finally, the Bureau has organized four formal advisory groups (the Advisory Board and three Councils) to advise the Bureau on various aspects of the consumer financial market.  Advisory group meetings are announced to the public in the Federal Register and on the Bureau’s website, and the meetings are livestreamed.  In addition, the Bureau publishes a summary of the meetings.

In the RFI, the Bureau seeks feedback on all aspects of the Bureau’s processes related to external engagements, but identifies the following as specific “areas of interest”:

  • Strategies for seeking public and private feedback from diverse external stakeholders on the Bureau’s work;
  • Structures for convening diverse external stakeholders and the public to discuss Bureau work in ways that maximize public participation and constructive input, including but not limited to structures currently used by the Bureau (field hearings, town halls, roundtables, and meetings of the advisory groups);
  • Processes for transparency in determining topics, locations, timing, frequency, participants, and other elements of public and private engagements;
  • Vehicles for soliciting public and private perspectives on the Bureau’s work from outside Washington, D.C.;
  • Strategies for promoting transparency of external engagements while protecting confidential business information and encouraging frank dialogue;
  • Strategies and channels for distributing information about external engagements to maximize public awareness and participation; and
  • New approaches, methods, or practices that would elicit constructive input on the Bureau’s work.

The Bureau began accepting comments on February 26, 2018, and the comment period is 90 days.