CFPB agrees taskforce was illegally chartered
On November 29, the parties reached a stipulated settlement in an action filed by several consumer advocacy groups against the CFPB, which claimed that the Bureau’s Taskforce on Federal Consumer Financial Law established under former Director Kathy Kraninger was “illegally chartered” and violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The consumer advocacy groups’ complaint alleged that the taskforce—which was established by the Bureau in 2019 to examine the existing legal and regulatory environment facing consumers and financial services providers—lacks balance, and that the appointed members who “uniformly represent industry views” have worked on behalf of several large financial institutions or work as industry consultants or lawyers. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) This composition, the consumer advocacy groups argued, undermines the purpose of the taskforce and is a violation of FACA and the Administrative Procedure Act. The complaint also stated that while FACA requires advisory committee meetings to be open to the public and that records be disclosed, the taskforce has held closed-session meetings without providing public notice and has failed to make available any of the records related to these meetings or its other work.
Under the terms of the stipulated settlement filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the parties agreed that the taskforce “was subject to FACA because it was ‘established’ and ‘utilized’ by the Bureau ‘in the interest of obtaining advice or recommendations.’” The parties also stipulated that the Bureau failed to comply with FACA in its establishment and operation of the taskforce, including by releasing a two volume report in January containing recommendations for modernizing the consumer financial services marketplace (covered by InfoBytes here) without being produced by a FACA-compliant advisory committee. The stipulated settlement agreement requires the Bureau to, among other things, (i) release all taskforce records; (ii) amend the final report to include a disclaimer that the report was produced in violation of FACA; (iii) relocate the taskforce webpage and remove the current version of the report from its website; (iv) issue a press release by January 17, 2022, notifying the public of the settlement agreement; and (v) provide status reports until the Bureau has come into full compliance.