WASHINGTON — In a statement of support for fintech companies that rely on screen scraping of bank websites, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray said he was "gravely concerned" about the decision of certain banks to block third-party access to consumer data.

"Let me state the matter as clearly as I can here: We believe consumers should be able to access this information and give their permission for third-party companies to access this information as well," said Cordray in a prepared speech Monday for the annual Money 20/20 Conference in Las Vegas.
Consumers often turn to firms like Quicken or Mint to try and get a handle on their entire financial package. But banks are wary of cooperating with those sites, viewing them as potential competitors.

Instead of cutting off third party companies' access to their data, banks should be "exploring ways to make sure that such access, once granted, is safe and secure," Cordray added. "We look forward to productive engagement with all stakeholders on this topic to find solutions that put consumer interests first."

In addition to criticizing this practice, which reportedly involves large banks like Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, Cordray's speech appeared sympathetic to the fintech industry. He also defended the agency's enforcement actions record.

"We are not looking to punish anyone merely for raising novel issues that present unsettled points of law or questions that fall into unforeseen cracks in the regulatory framework," he said. "Instead, our enforcement actions to date have addressed basic meat-and-potatoes issues," like deceptive practices.

Cordray said that through its Project Catalyst and "office hours" with hundreds of fintech companies, the agency had made efforts to "engage" with the industry. "It helps us learn while spreading awareness of the CFPB and our philosophy on encouraging financial innovation," he said, adding that the CFPB would soon release a report based on insights from Project Catalyst.

Cordray added that the oversight of fintech companies remained a complex proposition for regulators.

"Many novel products that fintech companies and financial institutions are developing cut across existing regulatory frameworks," he said. "That raises challenging issues for all of us."