May 11, 2016
Consumer Protection’s Holy Grail
The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) has issued a notice and request for comment regarding the Uniform Interagency Consumer Compliance Rating System (the CC Rating System). The FFIEC’s six members represent the Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Credit Union Administration, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, State Liaison Committee and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This veritable roundtable of regulators is seeking to revise the CC Rating System “to reflect the regulatory, examination (supervisory), technological, and market changes that have occurred in the years since the current rating system was established.” (81 F.R. 26553)
I know, I know, this is a deeply technical issued and you are wondering why I am writing about it for a somewhat general audience. The answer is that I think this is a good thing for people to know about: the federal government is seeking to implement a consistent approach to consumer protection across a broad swath of the financial services industry.
One of the CC Rating System’s categories is Violations of Law and Consumer Harm. The request for comment notes that over the last few decades, the financial services
industry has become more complex, and the broad array of risks in the market that can cause consumer harm has become increasingly clear. Violations of various laws, including, for example, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act 5 and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as well as fair lending violations, may potentially cause significant consumer harm and raise serious supervisory concerns. Recognizing this broad array of risks, the proposed guidance directs examiners to consider all violations of consumer laws, based on the root cause, severity, duration, and pervasiveness of the violation. This approach emphasizes the importance of a range of consumer protection laws and is intended to reflect the broader array of risks and the potential harm caused by consumer protection related violations. (81 F.R. 26556)
This is all to the good. A big part of the problem the last time around (pre-Subprime Crisis) was that financial services companies used regulatory arbitrage to avoid scrutiny. Lots of mortgage lending migrated to nonbanks. Nonbanks did not need to worry about unwanted attention from the regulators that scrutinized banks and other heavily regulated mortgage lenders. (To be clear, Alan Greenspan and other regulators did not do a good job of scrutinizing the banks. But let’s leave that for another post.) With the CFPB now regulating nonbanks and with this coordinated approach to consumer protection, we should expect that regulatory arbitrage will decrease.
If successful, this would amount to a regulatory equivalent of finding the Holy Grail. So, while this is a technical issue, it is something to feel good about.
Comments due July 4th, so get crackin’!| Permalink