Yesterday, the CFPB released a new Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2018 to 2022.  The new Plan is a further demonstration of Acting Director Mulvaney’s efforts to reshape the Bureau.  As the Acting Director says in the message that prefaces the Plan, “if there is one way to summarize the strategic changes occurring at the Bureau, it is this: we have committed to fulfill the Bureau’s statutory responsibilities, but go no further.”

The result is a plan that is half the size of the earlier Draft Strategic Plan (issued in October 2017 when Richard Cordray was still the Bureau’s Director) and offers a vision of markets “where the rights of all parties are protected by the rule of law.”  Consumer access to products now stands alongside consumer protection as a central goal, and reducing unwarranted regulatory burdens commands a place beside promulgating needed regulations.

The Acting Director’s message echoes the vision for the Bureau laid out in his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed (paywall), which called for an end to the Bureau “pushing the envelope” in enforcement matters.  The aggressive approach embraced by the Bureau under prior leadership, according to the Acting Director, “ignore[d] the will of the American people” as established in law by their representatives and carried the risk of “trampling upon the liberties of our citizens.”

In keeping with the Acting Director’s philosophy, the Strategic Plan draws directly from the Dodd-Frank Act for its formulation of the Bureau’s mission: “[t]o regulate the offering and provision of consumer financial products or services under the Federal consumer financial laws and to educate and empower consumers to make better informed financial decisions.”  See Pub. L. No. 111-203, Title X, §§ 1011, 1013 (2010) (codified at 12 U.S.C. §§ 5491, 5493).

The Strategic Plan also outlines the following three goals for the Bureau:

Goal 1: Ensure that all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services.

  • Notably, the first goal emphasizes consumer access (in contrast to the Draft Plan’s first goal of preventing consumer harm) and embraces information instead of enforcement as the way to protect consumers.  Accordingly, the CFPB’s objectives include ensuring that consumers are provided with “timely and understandable information,” which the Bureau will help achieve by researching the effectiveness of current consumer financial disclosures and issuing rules and waivers to improve their effectiveness.
  • The CFPB will also regularly identify and address “outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations” in an effort to reduce unwarranted regulatory burden.

Goal 2: Implement and enforce the law consistently to ensure that markets for consumer financial products and services are fair, transparent, and competitive.

  • The new Plan does not abandon the CFPB’s monitoring, rulemaking, supervision and enforcement functions, and clearly indicates that the CFPB plans a continued focus on risks to consumers, including enforcing fair lending requirements and prohibitions against unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices.  However, these efforts will be undertaken “with humility and moderation.”

Goal 3: Foster operational excellence through efficient and effective processes, governance, and security of resources and information. 

  • Similar to the objectives regarding the Bureau’s internal operations from the Draft Plan, the CFPB will strive to have a talented, diverse workforce and to promote accountability within the Bureau.
  • The Strategic Plan also emphasizes the Acting Director’s concern over data security at the Bureau, providing that the CFPB will be a “responsible steward of resources” with adequate information security safeguards to protect the information it receives.

The new Strategic Plan represents a significant departure from the CFPB’s last Strategic Plan published in April 2013.  Market participants can expect a Bureau that will refrain from “pushing the envelope” in enforcement, eliminate unnecessary regulations, promote consumer access to financial products, and seek to ensure consumers are “free to choose the products and services that best fit their individual needs.”