How Engaged is the CFPB with the ARM Industry?

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October 10, 2012 started out like most mornings for me; however, this day was different. While reading Twitter, part of my daily routine, I read a new tweet from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It was a “Save the Date” request for a field hearing in Seattle on October 24, 2012, on debt collection. Now my interest was piqued.

Attached to the tweet was a link to the announcement on the CFPB’s blog. The only additional information was that CPFB Director Richard Cordray would be providing remarks and they even would feature testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public, and that it started at 10AM (I have to assume local time, but even that detail was not included). There was an open invitation for attendees, along with a CFPB dedicated e-mail address for RSVP.

Yes, that was it.

I read it again several times hoping I may have missed something. I didn’t. I searched for a Press Release and found nothing. Wait a minute; this is the CFPB’s first field hearing regarding debt collection and there’s no Press Release, no location information, no contact name, or phone number? Questions, questions, questions.

The first thought I had was that the CFPB would use this field hearing to issue its final rule on “larger participant” supervision, specifically the size requirements for collection agencies that will be actively supervised. This final rule announcement was pushed back earlier in the year.

I posted the field hearing announcement in a few debt collection LinkedIn Groups, including my own, and I received the same feedback. Why all the missing pieces to this important announcement? One post remarked that even the debt collection associations — ACA, DBA and NARCA — had not been notified of this debt collection field hearing. So, who are the “industry representatives” providing “testimony” at this field hearing? Well, it’s still a mystery.

So, with little hesitation, I e-mailed my RSVP to the CFPB on 10/10/2012. I noted my qualifications as a debt collection subject matter expert. I did not receive the standard “we received your request” reply e-mail, so I verified the e-mail address again. The next day, I followed up with a phone call. The original CFPB number was now not in service, so I called the Inquires line (not the complaint line), hoping to speak to someone that could provide more details. The phone call lasted four minutes.

These are the CFPB’s Representative’s responses: “What was the field hearing called?” “Hold on a minute”  “Which field hearing again?” After a 3 ½ minute hold, “Let me take your name, and number, and someone will get back to you.” As of today, 10/17/2012, I still have not received a response to my RSVP (sent 10/10), or a response to my message left with the Representative from the CFPB Inquires Department. As a reminder, this event is taking place exactly one week from today.

In my opinion, the mainstream perception of the CFPB is that they are partnering with the financial services industry to better serve and protect consumers. The reality is that while they may, or may not, be working with banks, lenders, and other financial services providers, their partnership with the debt collection industry appears almost non-existent. As you may be aware, the CFPB recently appointed the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) which was a part of the Dodd-Frank legislation. A review of the Board Members selected shows most of the financial sectors are represented, except for the ARM industry. Why?

I wish I could tell you that I will be attending the first ever CFPB field hearing on debt collection; however, with no location information, lack of response from the CFPB to my RSVP e-mail, coupled with the date nearing next week, it is not certain that I will be attending. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Gina McNaughton is a recognized Debt Collection Subject Matter Expert (SME) with over 20 years leadership experience in the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry. She leads The McNaughton Group, a boutique consulting firm, which audits 3rd party debt collection agencies on behalf of Clients, provides internal operational audits/training directly to 3rd party debt collection agencies, and provides legislative support on credit and collection related matters.  In addition, she is also a frequent speaker on Financial Literacy, and the owner of the Debt Collection LinkedIn Group, Debt Collection FDCPA—FCRA—FACTA—GLBA—TCPA—FTC & CFPB Regulations Forum, the place to discuss best practices & share information about important regulations affecting the Debt Collection Industry.

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