Bureau agrees to release all records from 2019-20 task force on federal consumer financial law in settlement

A 2019 taskforce established by the federal consumer financial protection agency, ostensibly focusing on federal consumer financial law, did not comply with federal “sunshine” law requirements and the report of the group, issued about a year ago, will say so under a settlement announced Friday by the agency.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said it settled a lawsuit Nov. 29 filed by the National Association of Consumer Advocates, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and Professor Kathleen Engel. The lawsuit alleged that the Taskforce on Federal Consumer Financial Law, established in 2019 by then-CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger, did not comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

Among the requirements of the settlement, the agency said, are that the CFPB release to the plaintiffs, by March 22, all taskforce records that would have been made public if the CFPB had complied with FACA’s requirements. The records will also be made publicly available on the CFPB’s website, the agency said.

Additionally, the agency said it has amended the taskforce’s report (issued Jan. 5, 2021) to include a disclaimer noting that the CFPB failed to comply with FACA and that the report should not be relied upon as a “product of a FACA-compliant federal advisory committee.”

In October 2019, the bureau set up the task force, it said, to examine ways to harmonize and modernize federal consumer financial laws with the intent of strengthening and improving consumer protection law and regulations. The model for the group, the agency said then, was a review of consumer protection conducted more than 50 years ago.

That was a commission established by the Consumer Credit Protection Act in 1968. “In addition to various changes to consumer law generally, the Act established a national commission to conduct original research and provide Congress with recommendations relating to the regulation of consumer credit,” the agency said in 2019.

The new task force was charged with examining the existing legal and regulatory environment facing both consumers and financial services providers and reporting back to then-Director Kraninger.

After conducting meetings with industry groups, conference calls, and discussions with the bureau’s various committees during 2020, the group issued a report on Jan. 5, 2021.

The report held 100 recommendations, including that access to the payments system by non-bank providers be expanded; and that overlapping examination subject areas by regulators should be eliminated.

CFPB Announces Settlement Regarding the 2019 Taskforce on Federal Consumer Financial Law