Wednesday, March 9, 2011, 9:20 AM

CFPB enforcement chief speaks at State Attorneys General National Conference

Posted by: Chris Jones
Richard Cordray, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's new chief of enforcement, addressed the States' top legal officers this week at the National Association of Attorneys General ("NAAG") Winter conference in Washington, D.C. The text of Mr. Cordray's comments is attached here, and it outlines the CFPB's top five areas of focus.

Broadly stated, according to Mr. Cordray, the CFPB's vanguard missions are: (1) to ensure that consumers are provided with timely and clear information so they can make responsible decisions about financial transactions; (2) to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices, and from discrimination; (3) to reduce unwarranted regulatory burdens by identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations (e.g. "Two distinct federal agencies are responsible for administering the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. These two agencies have had discussions, going back for fifteen years, about harmonization and simplification of the mortgage disclosure forms mandated under each law – which you no doubt have noticed kills whole forests to provide the paper for ordinary real estate closings. Now, the Consumer Bureau is aiming to accomplish within one year what has been contemplated but not achieved for a decade and a half – and we think we have made real progress even before that one-year clock has started ticking. Success in this enterprise will mean clearer and more focused information for consumers, along with reduced costs for lenders – a true win-win for the American economy."); (4) to enforce Federal consumer financial law consistently, without regard to the status of a financial services provider as a depository institution, in order to promote fair competition; (5) to make sure that markets for consumer financial products and services operate transparently and efficiently to facilitate access and innovation.

In closing, Mr. Cordray emphasized the partnership that the CFPB intends to and, in fact, has begun to forge with the State Attorneys General, which he indicated is "not just because the Dodd-Frank Act generally provides for [Attorney General] authority to enforce the consumer bureau’s governing statute and related regulations, but also because we can be more effective and efficient by working with [the Attorneys General] to police the financial marketplace."

Recent U.S. history is replete with examples of turf protection and unwillingness of even intra-federal agencies to cooperate fully and share information with one another (think SARs, Hurricane Katrina, 9-11 and the Christmas Day bomber). The State Attorneys General will each have their own individual focus and their attention will be given to those issues that are most prevalent in their State. It will be interesting to see what happens when the CFPB priorities do not correlate with a State Attorney General's priorities.

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