House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is calling on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray to end the bureau’s closed-door meeting policy for its four advisory councils.

See Hensarling’s video calling for greater CFPB transparency.

Four advisory groups created by the CFPB conduct most of their business behind closed doors - refusing requests by members of the public and even a member of Congress to attend them. The meetings also are closed to the press.

The CFPB’s advisory groups, which include the Community Bank Advisory Council, Credit Union Advisory Council, Academic Research Council and Consumer Advisory Board, are made up of industry representatives, consumer activists and academics.

The agenda for the CFPB’s Consumer Advisory Board’s last meeting shows only two hours out of two days’ worth of meetings were open to the public.

Cordray has said the meetings are closed to the public because the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a sunshine law passed in 1972, does not apply to the CFPB. Yet, by law, all federal agencies are subject to the Act with the exception of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Director of National Intelligence and the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee, according to a Financial Services Committee statement.

 “Why deny the public the right to observe these meetings?” Rep Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) asked Director Cordray at a January hearing. Cordray replied that the advisory group meetings are closed to the public so “we can speak candidly about matters that are not yet public that the [CFPB] is working on, including things like enforcement actions and the like.”

That response is “deeply troubling,” Hensarling wrote in a Feb. 4 letter to Cordray. “Confidential information related to pending investigations or enforcement actions is potentially market moving and could be used for financial gain. Consequently, I am concerned that the bureau would release confidential information to persons who do not work for the Bureau and could be competitors or future legal adversaries of the party subject to the enforcement action.”

 

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