Beginning in June, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will provide the public with access to the meetings of the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB)and the CFPB’s three Councils. Anyone may attend or watch the full meetings live online the same way most other agencies allow under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
As we previously discussed, the CAB’s mission is to identify and assess the impact of emerging products, practices, or services on consumers and other market participants. In addition to the CAB, the CFPB currently has three Councils. All of these advisory groups are made up of experts, industry representatives, consumers, community leaders, and advocates who provide formal input to the CFPB on a wide range of issues. There is also pending legislation – the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Small Business Advisory Board Act – that would require the CFPB to create a fifth advisory panel of small financial services companies similar to the other advisory Boards already in existence.
The CFPB’s decision to stop these closed-door meetings comes on the heels of pressure both from the industry stakeholders and the House Financial Services Committee, in particular Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). Previously, CFPB Director Richard Cordray took the position these meetings are closed to the public based on the view that FACA does not apply to the CFPB. It is not clear if this interpretation of FACA’s scope has changed or if the CFPB has decided to open these meetings to the public in an attempt to avoid further negative publicity about its transparency.