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Brian Johnson Remarks at Public Symposium on Abusive Acts and Practices

(as prepared for delivery)

Thank you all for coming today. I am delighted to be here to help kick off the Bureau’s symposia series. As we saw from this morning’s session, we are off to a great start. The purpose of this series is to provide a robust, proactive, and transparent dialogue to help the Bureau execute its mission and policy development process. 

The Dodd-Frank Act authorizes the Bureau to take enforcement, supervision, and rulemaking actions concerning unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices (or, as we call it in industry parlance, “UDAAP”). This is a very important authority, one that we do not take lightly. 

And it occurs to me that the enormity of what that means could be no better understood than by the people in this room today. Indeed, if I am not mistaken, the panelists have roughly 75 years of public service at financial agencies that enforce UDAAP; 125 years if you count the moderators. These experts come from a variety of experiences. And they come with a variety of perspectives. 

As Director Kraninger said earlier, today’s goal—and the goal of the symposia series—is to glean commonsense ideas that help inform our policy development process. From what I heard this morning, I think we have done a great job in starting this journey. But I think it’s important to note that this is just the beginning. All perspectives are welcome and we look forward to continuing to hear from the public. 

A lot has happened at the Bureau over the past two years, but our conviction has never wavered: The mission of the Bureau is to protect consumers. We are deeply committed to that mission. And we seek to execute that mission in order to achieve our strategic vision of: “Free, innovative, competitive, and transparent consumer finance markets where the rights of all parties are protected by the rule of law and where consumers are free to choose the products and services that best fit their individual needs.”

The fundamental purpose of government is protecting the rights of its citizens. And that means protecting the vulnerable and less fortunate among us. It means making sure consumers aren’t taken advantage of. It means helping them understand complicated financial products so they can make informed decisions. And ultimately, it means providing rules of the road that create the foundation necessary to help consumers climb rungs of the economic ladder so they can better provide for their families and pursue their dreams. This is important work. It is vital work.

Today’s symposium is a proactive effort as the Bureau fulfills its mission. After all, an important component of consumer protection is combatting unlawful acts or practices by market participants, including and especially those that are discriminatory, deceptive, unfair, or… abusive. 

Today’s discussion is just our first as we explore the contours of consumer protection in a dynamic financial services marketplace. We aim to hold similar symposia on behavioral law and economics, small business loan data collection, disparate impact and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, cost-benefit analysis, and consumer authorized financial data sharing. These symposia will reflect a commitment to transparent, productive public discourse, with an open mind on how to approach difficult issues. 

Right now, though, I’m excited to hear from our next panel of accomplished UDAAP experts. I am so glad that you have volunteered your time to share your thoughts today. Thank you for your participation. Your perspectives are extremely valuable. I look forward to a productive dialogue. Please join me in welcoming them. Thank you.