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On August 28, the CFPB announced a new external peer review process of its “important technical and scientific research” in order to ensure its quality. The Bureau noted it is following guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which encourages federal agencies to seek peer review of “‘influential scientific information’ and ‘highly influential scientific assessments,’” specific terms defined by OMB in the guidance. The Bureau notes that it will use the Academic Research Council (ARC)—a panel of outside researchers with expertise in consumer finance—to conduct the peer reviews of its research. The Bureau has a dedicated webpage where it will post the original report, its peer review request, the ARC’s report, and if necessary, a revised report addressing the ARC’s review.
The first report subject to peer review is the Bureau’s February report titled, “Disclosure of Time-Barred Debt and Revival: Findings from the CFPB’s Quantitative Disclosure Testing.” A copy of the report and the ARC’s review report are now available on the Bureau’s webpage.
On April 11, acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Russel Vought, sent a memorandum to the heads of all executive agencies announcing that on May 11, agencies will be required to submit all regulatory guidance materials to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review prior to publication. The memo asserts that the Congressional Review Act (CRA) “applies to more than just notice-and-comment rules; it also encompasses a wide range of other regulatory actions, including, inter alia, guidance documents, general statements of policy and interpretive rules” and therefore, agencies should not publish a regulatory action in the Federal Register without first submitting the document to OIRA to determine whether it is considered a “major rule” under the CRA. The CRA defines a “major rule” as one having (i) an annual effect on the economy of at least $100 million; (ii) a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, or federal and state governments; or (iii) significant adverse effects on competition, employment, and U.S.-based enterprises. Should OIRA consider the regulatory action to be a “major rule,” the rule will be submitted to Congress with OIRA’s report and will not become effective sooner than 60 days after its submission. The memo instructs agencies to provide OIRA a quantitative analysis, which includes costs, benefits, and transfer impacts relative to a baseline, “when reasonably possible.” Additionally, the agency’s analysis should include whether the regulatory action would impose a disproportionate cost on a particular group or place a significant burden on the economy.
On February 4, the CFPB released a request for public comment on a new information collection titled, “Debt Collection Quantitative Disclosure Testing.” The proposed collection—which seeks Office of Management and Budget approval to conduct a web survey as part of the Bureau's debt collection disclosure research—“will explore consumer comprehension and decision making in response to debt collection disclosure forms.” Comments must be received by March 6.
On June 18, the White House announced President Trump’s selection of Kathleen Kraninger to be the director of the CFPB for a five-year term. Kraninger currently serves as the associate director for general government at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Prior to OMB, Kraninger worked at the Department of Homeland Security and in Congress on the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations. Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Bureau and director of OMB, supervises Kraninger in her current role. In a statement commending the selection, Mulvaney emphasized that Kraninger is likely to follow his example, “I have never worked with a more qualified individual than Kathy… I know that my efforts to rein in the bureaucracy at the [Bureau] to make it more accountable, effective, and efficient will be continued under her able stewardship.” While the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) required the president to nominate a new director prior to June 22nd, Mulvaney is likely to remain the acting Bureau director for the foreseeable future, as FVRA allows Mulvaney to continue in the acting capacity until the Senate confirms or denies Kraninger’s nomination. If Kranginger’s nomination fails, FVRA would allow Mulvaney to restart a new 210-day period as acting director of the Bureau and to continue serving if the president makes another nomination before that period ends.
On April 11, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, and OCC—as members of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC)—published a joint notice and request for comment for OMB review and approval regarding revisions to the Consolidated Reports of Condition and Income (Call Reports) for financial institutions. The finalized changes modify Call Reports applicable to banks with (i) domestic offices only and less than $1 billion in total assets (FFIEC 051); (ii) domestic offices only (FFIEC 041); and (iii) domestic and foreign offices (FFIEC 031). The changes include removing or consolidating certain data items and adding a new or raising certain existing reporting thresholds in the three versions of the Call Report. Comments must be submitted by May 11. Subject to OMB approval, the revisions would take effect as of the June 30, 2018 report date. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the changes were originally proposed in November 2017.
OCC makes technical changes to stress testing rule; regulators submit unified stress test report for OMB approval
On February 23, the OCC finalized technical changes to its annual stress testing rule. Specifically, the final rule (i) changes the range of possible “as-of” dates used in the global market shock component to conform to changes already made by the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) to its annual stress testing regulations; (ii) extends the transition process for covered institutions with $50 billion or more in assets (“a national bank or federal savings association that becomes an over $50 billion covered institution in the fourth quarter of a calendar year will not be subject to the stress testing requirements applicable to over $50 billion covered institutions until the third year after it crosses the asset threshold”); and (iii) makes certain technical clarifications to the requirements of the OCC’s stress testing rule. The final rule takes effect March 26.
The same day, the Fed, the OCC, and the FDIC submitted a notice to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting approval of a new stress test report form (FFIEC 016) to be implemented for the stress test report due July 31. If approved, FFIEC 016 would replace the agencies’ three separate, yet identical, forms currently used to collect information from financial institutions and holding companies with total assets of more than $10 billion but less than $50 billion. Comments on the proposed change must be received on or before March 26.
On November 28, the CFPB published two notices of its intention to obtain OMB approval to continue its existing consumer complaint collection activities using its “Consumer Response Intake Form” and “Generic Information Collection Plan for Consumer Complaint and Information Collection System (Testing and Feedback).” According to the CFPB, use of the forms allows for electronic complaint submission on the Bureau’s website and streamlines the complaint process for consumers. Comments on the agency’s notices (CFPB-2017-0035 and CFPB-2017-0036) must be received by December 28, 2017.
On November 28, Judge Timothy Kelly denied a request by Leandra English, who was appointed Deputy Director of the CFPB by Richard Cordray on the same day as his resignation, for a temporary restraining order preventing the President from appointing anyone other than English as Acting Director and preventing Mick Mulvaney from serving as the Acting Director (see previous InfoBytes coverage for details).
English’s counsel, in remarks to reporters outside the courtroom, stated they may seek an appeal, may move for a preliminary injunction, or may move for an expedited final decision on the merits.
On November 26, the newly appointed Deputy Director of the CFPB, Leandra English, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against President Trump and Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), seeking declaratory judgments that English is the Acting Director of the CFPB – and Mulvaney is not – as well as emergency temporary restraining orders preventing the President from appointing anyone other than English as Acting Director and preventing Mulvaney from acting as the Acting Director.
The legal action results from the November 24 resignation of Richard Cordray as the Director of the CFPB and his naming of English as the Bureau’s Deputy Director (previously covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert) citing to section 1011(b)(5) of the Dodd-Frank Act (DFA), which provides that the CFPB’s Director may appoint the Deputy Director who “shall…serve as acting Director in the absence or unavailability of the Director.” Following Cordray’s official resignation, the White House issued an announcement appointing Mulvaney as Acting Director under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (FVRA).
On November 25, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel released a memorandum in support of the President’s authority to designate Mulvaney as the Acting Director of the Bureau under the FVRA. According to the DOJ, while Congress recognized there would be cases in which FVRA was not the “exclusive means” for succession, Congress did not intend for the FVRA to be “unavailable” when another statute provides an alternative for succession. Accordingly, the DOJ asserts that, notwithstanding the succession provision in the DFA, FVRA gives the President the authority to, “rely upon it in designating an acting official in a manner that differs from the order of succession otherwise provided by an office-specific statute.” In her complaint, English argues that the succession provision in the DFA controls over the FVRA and that the appointment of a White House official is inconsistent with the CFPB’s independent structure.
Similarly, on November 25, the General Counsel for the CFPB, Mary Mcleod, issued a statement to the senior leaders of the Bureau concurring with the DOJ’s conclusion that “the President may use the [FVRA] to designate an acting official, even when there is a succession statute under which another official may serve as acting.” Mcleod concluded that Mulvaney is the Acting Director of the CFPB and encouraged all Bureau staff to act consistently with that conclusion.
Oral arguments on English’s emergency motion were held on November 27 by Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee. Judge Kelly did not rule on the motion and granted the government’s request to file papers responding to English’s arguments.
According to media sources, President Trump is expected to select Mick Mulvaney, the current Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to serve as the interim Director of the CFPB upon Richard Cordray’s resignation at the end of this month. Mulvaney would keep his current position and serve as both the Director of OMB and Acting Director of the CFPB throughout the interim term.
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