The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has met the requirements for convening small-business review panels, though most panelists said they disagreed with the agency's final rules, the Government Accountability Office said Wednesday.

The GAO conducted a performance audit of the CFPB's small-business review panels at the request of Sen. David Vitter, R-La., chairman of the Senate committee on small business and entrepreneurship, and Sen. James E. Risch, R-Idaho, a committee member.

The report found that only 12% of small-entity representatives who responded to the GAO said they were satisfied with the CFPB's final rules.

The GAO's 43-page report examined the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panels, which seek direct input from small entities before a proposed rulemaking is released. Under the law, the agency must preview proposals before formally releasing them for comment. In some cases, this can result in substantial delays as the agency makes changes. For example, the CFPB waited more than a year to formally issue a proposal reining in payday lending after first showing it to its small-business review panel.

The GAO interviewed 57 of the 69 small-entity representatives who participated in the four small-business review panels that the CFPB has held so far. Of those who responded, a majority said the CFPB either reported their views accurately or appeared to take their views into consideration during the rulemaking process.

But 23% of respondents said the CFPB treated the process as a formality; 26% said the process could be improved. Some suggested holding additional meetings to discuss topics or determine how industries would incorporate rules into their operations.

The rules for the small-business panel process are based on statutory requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act and were focused on four mortgage lending rules: Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act integrated disclosures; mortgage servicing; mortgage loan originator compensation, and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

The CFPB acknowledged that in some cases the impact on consumers in rural areas is not fully known because of limited information.

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