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CFPB consumer complaint database about to hit 1 million complaints

Cordray discusses milestone during Wells Fargo hearing

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s much-maligned consumer complaint database is about to reach 1 million total complaints, CFPB Director Richard Cordray said Tuesday.

Cordray revealed the approaching milestone during his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee over the CFPB’s role in the $185 million fine levied against Wells Fargo for opening up 2 million fake accounts.

Cordray discussed the complaint database briefly during an exchange with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, stating that database should field its millionth complaint later this week.

The consumer complaint database has long been a target of the financial services industry.

When the CFPB began publishing consumers’ complaints against financial services companies several years ago, many of the companies featured in the database, as well as other industry observers, took issue with the fact that the complaints were, in many cases, unverified and unproven.

But that didn’t stop the CFPB from accepting the complaints.

And as it turns out, the complaint database proved helpful in levying the fine against Wells Fargo, as James Clark, the chief deputy of the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney, testified that his office used the CFPB’s complaint database in its investigation into Wells Fargo.

That investigation led to the $100 million fine from the CFPB, a $50 million fine by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and a $35 million fine by the city and county of Los Angeles.

The CFPB’s complaint database may have proved useful in the Wells Fargo case, but the database itself is under scrutiny from Congress, as a bill, entitled the CFPB Data Accountability Act, was introduced into the House of Representatives in June by Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Arizona.

The bill would require the CFPB to “verify and put into context” the consumer complaints it receives and presents to the public.

“By verifying these complaints with evidence of actual wrongdoing, Americans will have a greater understanding of various financial products and be better informed of any violations committed by these institutions,” Salmon's office stated.

Specifically, per the legislation text, Salmon’s bill would require the CFPB to “verify any consumer complaint information…where the complaint alleges a violation of a law, regulation, or contractual agreement between a consumer and a covered person who offered or provided the consumer financial product or service to the consumer.”

Salmon’s bill is still awaiting review by the House Financial Services Committee. If it passes out of committee, it would proceed to the full House for review.

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