CFPB releases 2021 ombudsman report
On December 2, the CFPB Ombudsman’s Office published its annual report, which details inquiries handled by the office as well as its strategic plan goals for the next two years. As a new initiative going forward, following a pilot test at the request of the CFPB, the Ombudsman determined that it would begin conducting post-examination surveys of supervised entities, with a focus on three process areas: (i) supervision materials and resources; (ii) interpersonal communications with Bureau personnel; and (iii) end-of-examination topics, including clarity in expectations of closure and awareness of the appeals process. The Ombudsman will host virtual engagements with industry stakeholders in Q1 of FY2022 to further share information about the survey plan.
Relatedly, the Ombudsman closed its review of one topic from the previous year concerning the information provided to companies during examinations. The review was in response to concerns by industry stakeholders, who anticipated a more positive examination outcome based on communications with the examination team during the onsite portion of the examination. The report noted recent improvements made by the Bureau in this area, including revising certain job aids to assist examiners with both examination outcomes and the enforcement process, in addition to posting information about possible types of outcomes on its website. The report also highlighted: (i) examples on issues the Ombudsman handled during the previous year, including assisting on individual consumer inquiries about stimulus payments and offering feedback and suggestions on draft CFPB materials; (ii) an update on the virtual Ombudsman Forum, which facilitated discussions on topics such as racial and economic equity; (iii) an analysis of individual inquiries; and (iv) a release of frequently asked questions about the Ombudsman’s Office.
Finally, this year’s report also features a new section, the Ombudsman in Brief, which summarizes two topics where the Ombudsman did not engage in a systemic review: (i) assisting the Bureau divisions and offices with their processes related to complaints submitted by small business owners; and (ii) suggesting standardization of terminology within the Bureau when referring to various stakeholder communities.