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Politics & Money

Bill would force full transparency at CFPB

Congressman: Why does CFPB think it's like the CIA?

A leading Republican on the House Financial Services Committee introduced a bill to open the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau up to face the same scrutiny as every single other commission, regulatory body and government body with the exception of the CIA and the Federal Open Market Committee.

The bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., would apply the Federal Advisory Committee Act to the CFPB and its advisory councils.

"What is the CFPB doing that is on par with the CIA? It makes everyone want to ask, 'what exactly goes on in these meetings?'” Duffy said.

The move comes two days after U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, called out the CFPB for its policy of secrecy and closed door advisory council meetings – all part of “Sunshine Week,” a national effort to promote what is dwindling government transparency.

The CFPB has argued that it is not subject to the FACA, a 1972 law that is supposed to ensure that Congress and the public know what's being discussed in government consumer advisory meetings, who is attending them, and how much they are costing taxpayers.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray has said the meetings are closed to the public because the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a sunshine law passed in 1972, does not apply to the Bureau. 

“Why deny the public the right to observe these meetings?” U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C. asked Director Cordray at a January hearing

The CFPB does not receive taxpayer money, but it is a government regulatory body with the power to fine and regulate, and to have those executed with force of federal law.

Duffy says he requested to attend the February 26th and 27th meeting of the CFPB's Consumer Advisory Committee, which under FACA should be completely open to the public. His said his staff was told via email, "We cannot accommodate the Congressman’s request."

"If the CFPB is not going to take steps to maintain the transparency it claims it is committed to, we will take the legislative steps for them. My bill, H.R. 4262, mandates that FACA must apply to all of the CFPB's advisory committees. The people have a right to know what their government is up to, and the government has a responsibility to provide that transparency," he said.

Hensarling and Duffy’s concerns reflect a September 2013 recommendation in a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, which can be viewed here.

Calls and emails to the CFPB for a response to Hensarling’s statement’s Monday and Duffy’s on Wednesday were not returned as of publication.

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