Alarmed about leaks of confidential info via former workers, CFPB leader issues guidance to staff

Concerned that some former agency employees are exploiting confidential information to make money, the director of the federal consumer financial protection issued guidance Friday calling on current workers to report suspicious activity.

In a blog post, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra said that, in some cases, the act of former employees perhaps having a financial incentive to exploit confidential information to which they may have had access is behavior that “may even violate criminal law.”

Chopra said the agency Friday issued additional guidance to staff reminding them to report suspicious communications and activity by former agency workers to current CFPB officials. He wrote that if staff have information about a former government employee who may be violating federal ethics and confidential information disclosure laws and regulations, they are to contact agency management.

“This will allow the CFPB to detect activity by former employees and other government agencies who may be violating existing ethics and confidential information disclosure laws and regulations,” Chopra wrote. “For example, the guidance directs current employees to file reports with agency ethics officials if they learn a former employee may be illegally providing ‘behind the scenes’ assistance to a party under investigation by the CFPB.”

The CFPB director said the agency would use this information to make appropriate referrals to civil and criminal authorities as provided for in federal law. For former government attorneys engaging in violations, Chopra wrote, the CFPB will also make referrals to state licensing bodies and bar associations that may wish to consider disciplinary proceedings.

Additionally, Chopra said that “no regulated entity” should feel it needs to retain the services of a former government employee to meet its legal and regulatory obligations.

“At the CFPB, agency alumni will not get special treatment,” Chopra stated. “In fact, it will be just the opposite. We will be applying heightened scrutiny to matters and decisions where a party has employed or retained the services of a former employee to ensure that the CFPB is meeting the highest standards of ethics and integrity implemented nearly a decade ago.”

Chopra said the staff guidance is the first step of several that the CFPB will undertake to further strengthen its ethics program, including demonstrating the agency’s commitment to a standard of exemplary integrity, and ensuring “that our work serves the American people first and foremost.”

Ethics Guidance to Protect the Public Trust and Detect Revolving Door Misconduct