CFPB Announces Pilot Program to Issue Binding Advisory Opinions

Under a new pilot program launched by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today, entities seeking to comply with existing regulations may request an advisory opinion from the bureau to address areas of uncertainty. These advisory opinions—which would be published in the Federal Register—would be considered binding interpretive rules that banks and other institutions may rely on. Requests for advisory opinions may be emailed to [email protected].

The CFPB said it will select topics for advisory opinions based on four priorities: providing consumers with timely and understandable information to make responsible decisions; reducing regulatory burdens; ensuring consistency in enforcement of federal consumer financial laws; and ensuring markets for consumer financial products operate transparently and efficiently to facilitate access and innovation.

The bureau will also consider whether a given issue had been noted during prior examinations as one that would benefit from additional clarity and whether the issue concerns an ambiguity not previously addressed in a previous interpretive rule or other authoritative source. The bureau added that there would be “a strong presumption against appropriateness of an advisory opinion for issues that are the subject of an ongoing investigation or enforcement action or the subject of an ongoing or planned rulemaking.”

The CFPB is also seeking public comment on a proposed advisory opinion program that would ultimately take the place of the pilot. Comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The American Bankers Association welcomed these actions by the bureau, having recommended in previous comments that CFPB issue official, binding interpretations to address regulatory uncertainty.