CFPB

8 07, 2024

Karen Petrou: What MAGA Republicans and Rohit Chopra Both Want

2024-07-08T13:20:21-04:00July 8th, 2024|The Vault|

Following last week’s celebration of American independence, my thoughts turned to the confluence of concern from both sides of the political spectrum about an issue at the heart of the Bill of Rights:  “financial censorship.”  When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and CFPB Director Chopra agree – as they do – on a hot-button point such as freedom of thought as it may be expressed in financial transactions, a new framework is upon us no matter who wins in November.  Virtuous as this ideal is, putting it into practice is fraught with consequences, more than a few unintended.

That Mr. Chopra chose to address the Federalist Society is notable in and of itself.  I’ve done this more than a few times and emerged not only unscathed, but often enlightened.  But that was before Democrats viewed the Society as a cabal meant to subvert rules such as those Mr. Chopra is fond of issuing.  But the CFPB director knew his crowd – he and even super-MAGA conservatives fear that powerful financial companies threaten freedom of thought because giant platforms have undue control over each of our wallets.  This may not be true, but at least one such company gave it a try and those taking aim at financial censorships think that once is enough, and they are right.

However, the focus on financial censorship goes beyond what payment companies allow us to express via what we purchase.  The debate is over a decade old, beginning as it did when Obama Administration banking …

5 06, 2024

FedFin on: Closing In on Closing Costs

2024-06-05T11:21:39-04:00June 5th, 2024|The Vault|

As anticipated, the CFPB has advanced its campaign to quell mortgage closing costs.  But, unlike our forecast, the usually-aggressive agency is sliding into this debate with only a request for information (RFI) asking lots of questions we though the CFPB had already answered to its own satisfaction given a prior study and much ancillary “junk fee” commentary from Director Chopra and even the White House NEC Director.

The full report is available to subscription clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here.…

13 05, 2024

FedFin on: FSOC’s Analytical Methodology

2024-05-13T16:52:29-04:00May 13th, 2024|The Vault|

Never Mind…

When FSOC released its systemic-designation methodology last year, the Council made it clear that nonbank mortgage companies faced top-down federal regulation.  Never mind.  As with so many other FSOC-declared systemic risks – see, for example, stablecoins – federal regulators have decided not to use the prudential tools they have in favor of asking for statutory change they know they won’t get.

The full report is available to subscription clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here.

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22 04, 2024

Karen Petrou: Credit-Card Surcharges: One Inflationary Culprit the CFPB Could Catch

2024-04-22T09:29:18-04:00April 22nd, 2024|The Vault|

One could go on – indeed many do – about whether inflation is showing enough signs of a slow-down to warrant lower interest rates.  I’ve said before that lower rates won’t have the housing-affordability benefits advocates expect, but this doesn’t address the underlying issue of just how hot inflation may be running.  I’m not sure if anyone – including the Fed – really knows, but battles on my neighborhood listserv validated by growing data make clear that federal data overlook one hidden price hike driving more and more Americans flat-out crazy:  credit-card surcharges that are nothing but shadow price hikes of as much as four percent.

In fact, card surcharges are the epitome of the “junk” fees the CFPB has vowed to quash.  The credit-card late fees the Bureau lambasts are due to consumer sins of omission or commission – i.e., consumers have the ability – I would say obligation – to keep their card debt within amounts they can honor as well as the choice to pay on time.  How much should be charged for paying late is obviously a point of discussion, but that consumers have a duty to pay on time is indisputable.

In sharp contrast, card surcharges are often unavoidable and ill-disclosed.  The neighborhood listserv is something of a group rant, but it does include interesting illustrations of hidden credit-card surcharges that are often – think car-repair shops – meaningful and material add-on prices discovered only after the fix, quite literally, is in.

D.C. is an …

5 03, 2024

FedFin on: Consumer-Financial Product Marketing Practices

2024-03-05T16:34:22-05:00March 5th, 2024|The Vault|

The CFPB has issued a circular essentially banning digital and perhaps all other consumer-finance comparison-shopping and lead-generation tools for credit cards and other products not covered by prior orders.  These activities could continue, but only as long as the comparison or lead is completely objective as the Bureau may come to judge it under complex and sometimes conflicting standards.  The circular follows similar CFPB actions outside the Administrative Procedure Act even though the agency clearly intends to enforce its new approach both directly and in concert with other state and federal agencies….

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

26 02, 2024

Karen Petrou: The Unintended Consequences of Blocking the Credit-Card Merger

2024-04-12T09:46:02-04:00February 26th, 2024|The Vault|

There is no doubt that the banking agencies have approved all too many dubious merger applications along with charter conversions of convenience.  However, the debate roiling over the Capital One/Discover merger harkens to an earlier age of thousands more prosperous small banks all operating strictly within a perimeter guarded by top-notch consumer, community, and prudential regulators.  Whether this ever existed is at best uncertain.  What is for sure is that all this nostalgia for a halcyon past will hasten a future dominated by GSIBs and systemic-scale nonbanks still operating outside flimsy regulatory guardrails.

The best way to demonstrate this awkward certainty is to run a counter-factual – that is, think about what the world would look like if opponents of the Capital One/Discover deal get their way.  Would we quickly see a return to card competition housed firmly within a tightly-regulated system?  Would the payment system be loosed from Visa and Mastercard’s grip?  Would merchants see the dawn of a new era of itsy-bitsy interchange fees?  Would card rates plummet and rewards stay splendiferous?  I very much doubt it.  Space here does not permit a detailed assessment of the analytics underlying my conclusions, so let’s go straight to each of them.  

First, banning the CapOne/Discover deal would not ensure robust card competition under strict bank regulation.  JPMorgan’s and American Express’ formidable stakes could grow because credit-card lending is a business dependent on economies of scale and scope vital to capital-efficiency through the secondary market.  However, large banks will

31 10, 2023

FedFin Assessment: New White House AI Policy Promises New KYC Requirements, Banking-Agency Guidance

2023-10-31T13:33:25-04:00October 31st, 2023|The Vault|

In this report, we assess the detailed executive order (EO) issued late Monday afternoon after days of private showings of selected versions. Much in the EO’s binding provisions address near-term AI-related threats to national-security, pandemic-risk, and infrastructure vulnerabilities and much related to AI-related opportunities derive from internal procedures Mr. Biden urges the federal government to develop along with workforce protections and biomedical research. The EO also reiterates the Administration’s values and presses agencies to work still harder on voluntary industry standards that many have been drafting or disagreeing on since the White House and Congress first called attention to AI risk. What comes of these provisions in the EO remains to be seen, but the Administration has also used tools such as the Defense Production Act’s authorization for direct economic intervention to mandate an array of new AI commercial and technology safeguards.

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

30 10, 2023

Karen Petrou: How to Prevent Open Banking From Turning Into the Wild West

2023-11-13T15:44:38-05:00October 30th, 2023|The Vault|

There are so many rules coming from so many directions at U.S. financial institutions that spotting key strategic challenges or opportunities is harder than ever.  That more and more of these rules are longer than 1,000 pages makes C-suite impact considerations still harder to highlight.  In the midst of this morass, one proposal from the CFPB on consumer-data rights may be easy to overlook, but this seemingly-petite 299-page rule is at least as consequential as the thousands of capital and CRA pages getting all the not-so-love.

Why?  Quite simply, consumer data are the currency of commerce in general and retail finance in particular.  The stratospheric ascent of data-driven companies such as Amazon are indisputable proof that competitors who control data quickly control consumers, mobilizing ever more powerful network effects that then crush all but the most nuanced niche providers.  The CFPB is right that banks no more deserve exclusive provenance over consumer data than tech-platform companies, but requiring banks to give these data away as the Bureau plans means the crown jewels of each retail franchise are now out on the shop counter for free.

Companies far better able to make astute use of these data than all but a few banks will quickly find ways to persuade consumers to give personal information to them unless the final data rights standard has considerably more consumer protection built in than the proposal.  I know it sounds odd to say that a CFPB proposal is light on consumer protections, but so it …

6 04, 2023

FedFin: Extra Equitable?

2023-04-06T16:36:29-04:00April 6th, 2023|The Vault|

FHFA, Fannie, and Freddie yesterday updated the sometimes-controversial equitable-finance plans FHFA approved last year.  Notably, Fannie’s new plan no longer focuses exclusively on Black households, a feature that garnered vitriolic Wall Street Journal criticism and negative Republican reactions.  Freddie’s plan delays and may even back away from efforts to set MI and title insurance pricing.

The full report is available to subscription clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here.…

8 02, 2023

FedFin on: Credit-Card Late Fee Regulation

2023-02-09T09:43:39-05:00February 8th, 2023|The Vault|

Following on a controversial advance notice of proposed rulemaking, the CFPB has now released an NPR setting specific standards for credit-card late fees that also eliminates the inflation adjustments established by the Federal Reserve when implementing the 2009 credit-card law.  The NPR also seeks comment on still more stringent late-fee restraints and limits on some or all of the other penalty fees now charged by some credit-card issuers.  When issuing the ANPR, the Bureau also noted that it plans to advance other initiatives under its “junk-fee” standards, likely starting with those pursuant to ….

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

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