Abernathy: CFPB’s Data Collection Practices Are “Expansive and Intrusive”

Despite its insistence that it is a “data-driven agency,” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has repeatedly failed to live up to appropriate data collection standards, said ABA EVP Wayne Abernathy in testimony before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations today. Abernathy provided several examples of what he called overreaching and manipulative data practices, arguing that the bureau’s current leadership structure is not conducive to transparent operations.

“Problematic bureau data practices have undermined the effective use of data to serve as a check on arbitrary action by the bureau, weakened the contribution of information to the quality of policymaking, and undercut the role of data to prevent regulatory abuses,” Abernathy said. “Taken together, these practices place at risk the bureau’s mission to protect consumers.”

On many occasions, Abernathy said, the CFPB has used irresponsible methods of data collection and reporting — skewing results by sampling data only from large banks, sidestepping regulatory requirements for public comment and review on certain data collection initiatives, and manufacturing data that could not be substantiated to advance its policymaking agenda.

The Dodd-Frank Act granted the CFPB broad authority to collect data, but did not provide appropriate oversight and accountability requirements, Abernathy said, adding that the organization’s sole-director leadership structure is partly to blame for the irresponsible practices. To better foster accountability, he recommended that the CFPB governance be led by a bipartisan commission.

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