Bureau schedules first ‘symposium’ with focus – as promised – on clarifying meaning of ‘abusiveness’ under Dodd-Frank

The first in a promised series of conferences “exploring” consumer protections in financial services will be held June 25, the federal consumer financial protection agency said Tuesday, and will focus – as promised by the agency in April – on clarifying the meaning of abusive acts or practices under the law.

The event – termed a “symposium” by the agency – will be streamed live via the Internet, the agency said.

The release issued Tuesday was the first time the agency revealed dates, times and details of one of its symposia. More future events are expected to be announced.

In a release, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) asserted that the meaning of “abusiveness” under the law establishing the agency’s powers to enforce the law, “is less developed than the meaning of unfair or deceptive, which have been defined substantially by the Federal Trade Commission Act.” The bureau said the symposium will provide a public forum for the bureau and the public to hear various perspectives on the meaning of abusiveness.

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank), CFPB is authorized to take enforcement, supervision, and rulemaking actions concerning unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices (UDAAP). But the meaning of “abusive” has been the subject of debate since the agency was given the power to enforce the law.

The bureau said two panels will be featured at the symposium, which gets underway at 9 a.m. at the agency’s headquarters, 1700 G St. NW, Washington, D.C., and is scheduled to run to 12:30 p.m.

The first panel will include a discussion with academic experts in consumer protection, which the bureau said will include: Patricia McCoy, Professor of Law, Boston College Law School; Todd Zywicki, Professor of Law, George Mason University, Antonin Scalia Law School; Howard Beales, George Washington University; former Director of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection; Adam Levitin, Professor of Law, Georgetown Law School.

The second panel is scheduled to include legal experts in how the “abusive” standard has been used in practice: William MacLeod, partner at Kelley Drye and former director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection and Bureau of Competition; Eric Mogilnicki, partner at Covington & Burling; former chief of staff, the Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.); Lucy Morris, partner Hudson Cook and former CFPB Deputy Enforcement Director, and; Nicholas Smyth, assistant director of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Senior Deputy Attorney General.

CFPB Director Kathleen (“Kathy”) Kraninger and Deputy Director Brian Johnson are scheduled to address the event separately.

In April, Kraninger announced the upcoming series of conferences, saying that, overall, they are aimed at “stimulating a proactive and transparent dialogue to assist the Bureau in its policy development process, including possible future rulemakings.” She said then that, during each symposium, the agency will host a discussion panel of experts with a variety of viewpoints on the topic.

CFPB Symposium: Abusive Acts or Practices