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Oral Testimony of Director Kraninger Before the House Financial Services Committee

Chairwoman Waters, Ranking Member McHenry, and Members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to provide you with an update on the CFPB’s important work. I appear before you as the country is engaged in a national conversation on racial inequality and confronting the unprecedented pandemic. Today, I would like to discuss both topics with you.

Under my leadership, the CFPB is taking steps to help create real and sustainable changes in our financial system so that African Americans and other minorities have equal opportunities to build wealth and close the economic divide.

Earlier this week, I authored a blog outlining the Bureau’s important work on fair lending. We also issued a Request for Information on how best to create a regulatory environment that prevents credit discrimination in all aspects of the transaction and expands access to credit. The information that is submitted will help us enforce the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, or ECOA. Among the topics the public can comment on are how to better protect consumers with limited English proficiency as well as applicants who derive income from any public assistance program. I encourage the public to respond so that we can build a financial system that treats everyone fairly and provides clear rules of the road.

Having clear standards helps us identify any violations in fair lending laws. Recently, the Bureau filed a lawsuit alleging a lender had violated ECOA by discouraging African-Americans from applying for loans through its advertising. The Bureau also announced a settlement last year with a mortgage corporation that violated the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and Regulation C by intentionally submitting years of mortgage-loan data that contained errors in the fields of race, ethnicity, and sex. Since my last testimony before the Committee, I have requested critical authority from Congress to allow the Bureau to compensate whistleblowers. In our enforcement work, we have seen firsthand that whistleblowers can provide key information on fair lending violations. I want to thank Congressman Green for introducing legislation similar to what I requested. I stand ready to work with Congress to secure this important authority.

Now, let me take a moment to discuss how we are protecting consumers during the pandemic.

We have worked to expand our reach to consumers to provide them with actionable, useful information about their rights, options, and expectations in the marketplace for consumer financial products and services. We have produced over 70 blogs and videos that have been accessed directly by more than 3 million users. Through our social media reach, staff estimates our materials have been sent to 41 million users. These materials are available in seven different languages and have been constantly updated to adapt to the changing dynamics. We have also promoted our consumer complaint system. When consumers submit complaints to the Bureau, they help inform our work in supervision, enforcement, regulation, and education. Specifically, in response to complaints and other market and stakeholder feedback, we worked with interagency partners to quickly address a student loan-related credit reporting issue as well as CARES Act mortgage forbearance lump sum payments concerns.

From January 1 through July 26, 2020, consumers have submitted more than 270,000 complaints to the Bureau of which more than 14,000 complaints specifically reference coronavirus. Each month from March through June set a new monthly record for complaints. Our consumer contact center and our online portal have operated efficiently and effectively throughout the pandemic to take consumer complaints and refer the complaints to companies for response.

We also partnered with other federal agencies to develop and launch a unified housing website to provide consumers with comprehensive and accurate information on their rights during this time. The Bureau has also developed a new, targeted supervisory approach, called Prioritized Assessments, to focus on those markets and institutions that pose the greatest risk of consumer harm as a result of pandemic-related issues.
We remain fully engaged in the execution of the Bureau’s critical mission, including continued progress on our regulatory agenda which is relevant to the pandemic and ultimate economic recovery, as well as our supervisory and enforcement work. We work closely with partners and stakeholders, recognizing the important roles that others play in supporting our consumer protection mission and preventing harm. I am particularly proud of the Bureau staff’s excellent work during these challenging times. Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to testify today, and I look forward to your questions.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by regularly identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations, by making rules more effective, by consistently enforcing federal consumer financial law, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.