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CFPB Critic Rep. Duffy Seeks Transparency With New Measure

Robert Ottone
Mar 21, 2014

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), formerly of MTV’s The Real World, has been a critic of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and its lack of transparency for a long time. Back in September, Duffy hammered CFPB Director Richard Cordray to give up the names of banks being monitored by the CFPB. Now, after a multitude of additional anti-CFPB rhetoric, Rep. Duffy is being barred from CFPB Consumer Advisory Committee meetings. Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) of 1972, only the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) meetings are exempt from the FACA ruling. "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 in a statement. Duffy appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s “Opinion Journal” program to highlight the lack of transparency with the CFPB, stating "We know in politics, oftentimes people will sample data, to see what the president’s approval rating is or disapproval rating is. The CFPB could do the same thing to find out information about financial transactions. But instead of sampling data, they’re actually collecting it and storing it for up to 10 years. This is absolutely crazy." In late February, Duffy again attacked the CFPB during the introduction of a bill that would effectively re-shape the government entity, once again, Duffy put an emphasis on transparency. “This is a bill about accountability and transparency," said Duffy at the time. "If you are here to protect the consumer, why don't you ask the consumer for permission and consent to take their information? This is the right thing to do. Let's empower Congress and the American people. Let's reform the CFPB and actually make it work." Duffy isn’t saying anything that is drastically counter to what many in Washington (and around the nation) are thinking, especially those in the mortgage industry. The CFPB operates in secret. To compare them to the National Security Agency (NSA) isn’t a wild accusation, it’s rooted in a notion of truth. “So this is far more than the NSA. Far more than their metadata, which only collects phone numbers but not names, far more because they have no re-authorization, far more because there is no appropriation restrictions placed on it,” said Rep. Dan Webster at a House Rules committee hearing in February. “This is more than just NSA-style, this is more Gestapo-style collection of data on individual citizens who have no clue that this is happening.” Back in February, I wrote an article highlighting some of the difficulty in making contact with the CFPB and their seeming-lack of interest in reaching out, regarding certain issues. While it’s not unheard-of for a government entity to screen questions before they come in, to limit access to the press at trade events is almost absurd, and there are reports of the CFPB doing this at multiple events across the nation. In all fairness, Rep. Duffy isn’t the most easily accessible congressman in Washington. The barrier to entry for email contact is pretty high and he limits contact to those in his district. "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, HR 4262, mandates that FACA must apply to all of the CFPB's advisory committees,” said Duffy in a statement. “The people have a right to know what their government is up to, and the government has a responsibility to provide that transparency."
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