The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a Request for Comment on a proposed policy regarding No-Action Letters. Under the proposed policy, the Bureau could
issue no-action letters (NALs) to specific applicants in instances involving innovative financial products or services that promise substantial consumer benefit where there is substantial uncertainty whether or how specific provisions of statutes or regulations implemented by the Bureau would be applied (for example if, because of intervening technological developments, the application of statutes and regulations to a new project is novel and complicated). The Policy is also designed to enhance compliance with applicable federal consumer financial laws. (79 F.R. 62119)
The notice goes on,
The Bureau recognizes that, in certain circumstances, some may perceive that the current regulatory framework may hinder the development of innovative financial products that promise substantial consumer benefit because, for example, existing laws and rules did not contemplate such products. In such circumstances, it may be substantially uncertain whether or how specific provisions of certain statutes and regulations should be applied to such a product—and thus whether the federal agency tasked with administering those portions of a statute or regulation may bring an enforcement or supervisory action against the developer of the product for failure to comply with those laws. Such regulatory uncertainty may discourage innovators from entering a market, or make it difficult for them to develop suitable products or attract sufficient investment or other support.
Federal agencies can reduce such regulatory uncertainty in a variety of ways. For example, an agency may clarify the application of its statutes and regulations to the type of product in question—by rulemaking or by the issuance of less formal guidance. Alternatively, an agency may provide some form of notification that it does not intend to recommend initiation of an enforcement or supervisory action against an entity based on the application of specific identified provisions of statutes or regulations to its offering of a particular product. This proposal is concerned with the latter means of reducing regulatory uncertainty in limited circumstances. (79 F.R. 62119)
This notice certainly identifies a problem inherent in the complex regulatory state we live in — heavy regulation can impede innovation. It is a good thing to try to address that problem, but it is far from certain how effective a No Action regime will be in that regard. It is hard to imagine that it could do any harm though, so it is certainly a reasonable step to take.
Your thoughts? Comments are due December 15th, so get crackin’!