UPDATED: BCFP to ‘reconstitute, reduce’ consumer, bank, CU councils

The BCFP (also called CFPB) plans to reduce advisory panel memberships.

The consumer, bank and credit union advisory panels that provide industry input and advice to the federal consumer financial protection agency will be reconstituted to “new, smaller memberships,” the agency said Wednesday in a blog post.

But news reports said one of the groups of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP), the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB), was disbanded Wednesday.

And other reports called the action a “gutting” of the CAB and the other advisory boards. The Washington Post called the action by BCFP Acting Director Mick Mulvaney a “firing” of the agency’s 25-member advisory board Wednesday, noting that Mulvaney also said he would launch a new panel in the fall.

On Monday, about half (11) of the CAB members held a news conference and criticized Mulvaney for, among other things, canceling legally required meetings with the group. On Wednesday, the group members were told that they were being replaced — and that they could not reapply for spots on the new board.

BCFP Spokesman John Czwartacki, in a statement, responded Wednesday to the board members’ comments. “The outspoken members of the Consumer Advisory Board seem more concerned about protecting their taxpayer funded junkets to Washington, D.C., and being wined and dined by the Bureau than protecting consumers,” he stated.

The agency’s blog post stated the changes were part of a response to comments received on its request for information (RFI) on bureau external engagements. That comment period closed May 29 (last week); 66 total comments were received, according to Regulations.gov. Those comments accounted for less than 1% (0.07%) of all the comments the agency has received in Mulvaney’s “call for evidence” from the public about how (or whether) the agency is doing its job.

In that “call for evidence,” the agency released 11 other RFIs. By contrast to the comments received on the external engagements, more than 52,000 comments were received on the RFI about the agency’s supervision program (about 62% of all comments received).

Just this week, the agency closed the comment period on the RFI about its public consumer complaints reporting process  — which generated more than 23,000 letters (or 26% of all the letters it has received).

The bureau receives advice and input on relevant issues from the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB), Community Bank Advisory Council (CBAC) and Credit Union Advisory Council (CUAC). It invited applications to fill 10 CAB, 15 CBAC and 12 CUAC seats becoming vacant this fall; applications were due April 30.

In Wednesday’s blog post, the bureau said it will use the 2018 application and selection process “to reconstitute the current advisory groups with new, smaller memberships.” Without stating how many seats will be filled as a result, it added, “By both right-sizing its advisory councils and ramping up outreach to external groups, the Bureau will enhance its ability to hear from consumer, civil rights, and industry groups on a more regular basis.”

The bureau also plans to “increase its strategic outreach to encourage in-depth conversations, sharing information, and developing partnerships focused on consumers in underserved communities and geographies,” it says. “These engagements will include regional town halls, roundtable discussions at the Bureau’s headquarters with consumer finance experts and representatives, regional roundtables, and regular national calls.”

It points to Friday’s coming town hall in Topeka, Kan., on combatting elder financial exploitation as being part of this outreach effort.

On a related note, the BCFP and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) will jointly host a webinar the day before – June 7 – that focuses on a joint memorandum encouraging collaboration across agencies and law enforcement on this issue, plus the role suspicious activity reports (SARs) in supporting related investigations.

The BCFP’s external engagements RFI had a 90-day comment period that ended May 29. As of Tuesday, 66 comments on this RFI had been posted to the Regulations.gov website.

BCFP Blog: Transforming the Way We Engage

June 7 BCFP-FinCEN webinar

June 8 town hall (Registration deadline: June 7)