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The CFPB Publishes Its First Examination Manual

The CFPB published its Supervision and Examination Manual (the “Manual”) on October 13, 2011, designed to provide CFPB examiners with direction on how to determine if providers of consumer financial products are complying with consumer protection laws. The CFPB’s press release states that the Manual incorporates procedures already used by other federal regulators. The Manual does simply recite certain interagency procedures, such as for fair lending examinations. At the same time, the Manual addresses new Dodd-Frank concepts, such as unfair, deceptive and abusive acts or practices.

The CFPB will use the Manual initially to supervise the more than 100 large banks, thrifts, and credit unions that are subject to the CFPB’s examination authority pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act (those with total assets over $10 billion, as well as their affiliates). The Bureau’s examiners will also ultimately use the Manual to supervise non-depository consumer financial service companies (e.g., mortgage lenders), with the stated goal of promoting “fair, transparent, and competitive consumer financial markets where consumers can have access to credit and other products and services, and where providers can compete for their business on a level playing field where everyone has to play by the rules.”

The CFPB Examination Framework and Philosophy

While only certain entities will be subject to CFPB examination, the Manual outlines an examination approach that is illustrative of the Bureau’s bend on matters over which it has rulemaking authority. This is particular true of its view of its authority over matters it considers unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices (UDAAP).

Like other bank regulators, the CFPB will prepare for examinations by gathering and reviewing a wide array of regulatory and public data about an institution:  state and/or prudential regulator reports of examination and correspondence, enforcement actions, state licensing and registration information, complaint data, call reports, HMDA LARs, HAMP data, fair lending analyses, SEC or other securities-related filings, the institution’s website and advertising, and, among other things, “newspaper articles, web postings, or blogs that raise examination related issues.” The CFPB will then contact the institution about the examination and prepare its customized Information Request.

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The CFPB Busily Restating Regulations

No, nothing to worry about yet, though it may be confusing for some time. One bureaucratic consequence of the Dodd-Frank Act moving the various consumer protection laws and regulations under the jurisdiction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is that they now must reissue the relevant regulations.

Referred to by CFPB insiders as the “restatement project,” the CFPB is preparing to reissue over 3,000 pages of regulations through approximately fourteen Federal Register notices. The reissued regulations will be changed to reflect jurisdictional changes and some scope changes, but they are not expected to change substantively at this time (although we will be watching). We expect publication of these reissued regulations to begin within days.

The possible source of confusion will be a new numbering system. The regulations will still be in Title 12 of the Code of Federal Regulations, but moved to Chapter X. We understand that most of the numbers will be unchanged after the decimal point, but the other numbers could be very different. So, for example, 12 CFR § 226.1 of Regulation Z could become 12 CFR § 1000.1. In some cases, however, due to rules of the Office of the Federal Register, new numbers will be required. For example, Regulation Z sections 226.5a and 226.5b could become 12 CFR § 10XX.40 and 12 CFR § 10XX.60.

None of this is all that earth shaking except to lawyers with nothing else to worry about. All those years memorizing regulation numbers for naught.

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