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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, that was created by the Obama administration, as a result of Dodd-Frank has been collecting millions in penalties.
It was mandated that the money collected was to be used to compensate the victims. To date, none of the victims have gotten anything, why? What is happening to the money?
The so called crime fighters are pretty good doling out the fines, not very good at the rest it.
Something to Watch: the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund
By: Kevin Wack
A $25 million penalty collected by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month is focusing attention on an aspect of the fledgling agency's powers that was long overlooked but now carries large political significance.
Whenever the bureau collects penalties from firms that violate consumer protection laws, those funds go into what's called the Civil Penalty Fund, which the agency can then use to compensate victims of fraud, as well as to fund consumer education and financial literacy programs.
That specific provision of the Dodd-Frank Act was mostly forgotten during the CFPB's first year in existence, since the agency had yet to impose any penalties. But the fund received its first infusion of cash after the bureau assessed a $25 million penalty to Capital One. The fine is just the opening deposit in what's expected to become a substantial pool of money.
Now the CFPB must decide how to implement the mere two sentences in Dodd-Frank that govern its use of the fund. Its decisions will be closely watched by congressional Republicans who worry that the money will be awarded under contracts with outside consumer groups that are the agency's political allies.
"People will want to know exactly who this money is going to and for what purpose, and why a particular contractor and particular issue was chosen," said Ann Jaedicke, a managing director at Promontory Financial Group.
Among the federal banking agencies, there is no precedent for this type of fund, and so far the CFPB has shed little light on how it will work.
The consumer agency in July released a three-page fact sheet that announced the formation of an internal board to oversee the fund, along with another three-page document that lays out the criteria it will use to award contracts for consumer education and financial literacy programs.
But in response to written questions from American Banker, the agency provided only vague answers to a number of key questions. (AB is a sister publication to National Mortgage News.)
For example, the bureau did not give any more detail than Dodd-Frank itself does about how officials will determine when money should go to individuals who suffered harm, and when it should be used for other purposes.
The 2010 law states that the fund "may" be used for consumer education and financial literacy "to the extent that such victims cannot be located" or that payments to them "are otherwise not practicable."
And what will happen in cases like the Capital One settlement, where the victims of the company's violations are expected to receive full compensation without any need to dip into the penalty funds?
The consumer agency again pointed to the language of Dodd-Frank. The law merely states that the money "shall be available, without fiscal year limitation," to pay victims of activities where penalties have been imposed under federal consumer financial laws.
That language might be interpreted to mean that the CFPB can stash away the $25 million from Capital One to compensate victims in future consumer protection cases. But for now the agency is not offering its own interpretation of the law.
The CFPB has good reason to tread carefully, since the Civil Penalty Fund has become a bugaboo for the agency's Republican critics in Congress.
Earlier this year the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal the fund. That move followed a December 2011 speech on the Senate floor where GOP Sen. Richard Shelby argued that the fund explains why Democrats have resisted Republican proposals to alter the agency's structure.
"This consumer bureau, as now structured, is allowed to dole out money it collects from fines and penalties to liberal consumer groups," Shelby said in the speech. "This reveals why the administration and the majority want so desperately for the bureau to be unaccountable. They want the bureau to be a permanent funding machine for their political allies."
Shelby doubled down on that argument recently, saying in a statement that CFPB Director Richard Cordray has "unchecked control of this unique slush fund."
No matter what decisions the consumer bureau eventually makes, the Civil Penalty Fund will surely face close scrutiny from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Joe Petrowsky does not guarantee nor is in any way responsible for the accuracy of the information provided herein, and provides said information without warranties of any kind, either expressed or implied.
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