CFPB updates business conduct bulletin, plans advisory opinion program, seeks whistleblower program authority

The federal agency charged with financial consumer protection on Friday announced it is implementing an advisory opinion program, issuing a revised “responsible business conduct bulletin,” and proposing legislation authorizing the agency to award whistleblowers who report violations of consumer protection law.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said these steps are intended to “advance its strategy on one of its key priorities: preventing consumer harm.”

The legislation proposed to congressional leaders would amend Title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank), the bureau said. “The incentive created for employees to report wrongdoing to the bureau will assist in advancing enforcement cases, especially as it relates to fair lending violations,” it said. “Under the proposed legislation, in cases where a whistleblower provides voluntary information that leads to a successful enforcement action, the bureau will be able to pay an award based on a percentage of the monetary sanctions collected in the action.”

It said that under the advisory opinion program, parties will submit requests for an advisory opinion to the bureau via its website. (The bureau will issue additional procedures for how requests will be addressed, including how the bureau will prioritize requests.) The bureau will publish the responding advisory opinion in the Federal Register and on its website and will include an interpretation of existing rules. A current guidance process, in which responses to individual regulatory inquiries are generally available to the requestor, will remain available, “as will the bureau’s other efforts to provide clear guidance to the public.”

The responsible business conduct bulletin, originally published in June 2013, has been updated to clarify the bureau’s approach to responsible business conduct and emphasize the importance of such conduct. It identifies four categories of responsible conduct: self-assessing, self-reporting, remediation, and cooperation. “If an entity meaningfully engages in these activities, the bureau will favorably consider it, along with other relevant factors, in addressing violations of federal consumer financial law in supervisory and enforcement matters,” the agency said.

CFPB Takes Key Steps to Prevent Consumer Harm; Proposes Whistleblower Award Program, Other Measures