CFPB launches pilot program to address regulatory uncertainty

June 18, 2020

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Thursday announced the launch of a pilot advisory opinion (AO) program to publicly address regulatory uncertainty. According to the CFPB, the pilot AO program will allow entities seeking to comply with regulatory requirements to submit a request where uncertainty exists.

CUNA strongly supports CFPB initiatives to provide clarity on compliance obligations and recommended the CFPB bolster their guidance and rule implementation resources – including calling on the CFPB to accept inquiries from regulated entities and issue public responses – in its 2018 white paper on CFPB reform and during subsequent conversations. 

The pilot program will focus on four key priorities:

  • Consumers are provided with timely and understandable information to make responsible decisions;
  • Identify outdated, unnecessary or unduly burdensome regulations in order to reduce regulatory burdens;
  • Consistency in enforcement of Federal consumer financial law in order to promote fair competition; and
  • Ensuring markets for consumer financial products and services operate transparently and efficiently to facilitate access and innovation.

Additionally, initial factors weighing for the appropriateness of an AO include:

  • That the interpretive issue has been noted during prior bureau examinations as one that might benefit from additional regulatory clarity;
  • That the issue is one of substantive importance or impact or one whose clarification would provide significant benefit; and/or
  • That the issue concerns an ambiguity that the Bureau has not previously addressed through an interpretive rule or other authoritative source. 

The CFPB notes, “there will be a strong presumption against appropriateness of an AO for issues that are the subject of an ongoing investigation or enforcement action or the subject of an ongoing or planned rulemaking. “

The CFPB will issue an advisory opinion based on its summary of the facts presented that would be applicable to other entities in situations with similar facts and circumstances if deemed appropriate. The advisory opinions would be posted on the Bureau’s website and published in the Federal Register.  

The public can comment on the proposed AO program, with comments due within 60 days of its publication in the Federal Register. Following the conclusion of the pilot, the proposed AO program will be fully implemented after the CFPB’s review of comments received.