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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB limits examiner term limits to five years after concurring with OIG recommendations

Bank Regulatory CFPB OIG Enforcement Examination

On February 26, the Office of Inspector General for the CFPB (OIG) released a report entitled, “The CFPB Can Enhance Certain Practices to Mitigate the Risk of Conflicts of Interest for Division of Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending Employees.” The report found that the CFPB’s Office of Supervision Examinations (OSE) does not have a formal policy that requires bank examiners to rotate assignments in a specified time frame, which increases potential conflicts of interest. The OSE examines banks to check for compliance failures in federal consumer financial law and is based out of four regional offices: New York (Northeast), Atlanta (Southeast), Chicago (Midwest), and San Francisco (West). The OIG argued that a formal policy adopted by the OSE would more effectively monitor examiner rotations, promoting “objectivity, cross-training, and broader expertise” and reducing the risk of regulatory capture – or subjecting the same regulated entity to the same examiner and subsequently risking independence and objectivity of exams. The OIG’s report posited two recommendations: (i) that the CFPB implement a formal examiner rotation policy; and (ii) that the CFPB track and document assignments for examiners and its members.

The OIG found that while some OSE offices have informal examiner rotation policies in place, there is no global system in place to track examiner assignments to ensure regular rotation. For example, OSE’s Northeast and West regional offices have written policies that require certain staff members to rotate every five years. However, the Southeast and Midwest offices do not have any written policies in place and stated having a “natural” turnover process based on needs and availability, among others.

The CFPB concurred with both OIG recommendations, stating that it will limit the time for lead examiners and field managers to five years and develop a tool for tracking these assignments.