About Consumer Financial Protection Circulars
Consumer Financial Protection Circulars are issued to all parties with authority to enforce federal consumer financial law. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the principal federal regulator responsible for administering federal consumer financial law, see 12 U.S.C. 5511, including the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s prohibition on unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts or practices, 12 U.S.C. 5536(a)(1)(B), and 18 other “enumerated consumer laws,” 12 U.S.C. 5481(12). However, these laws are also enforced by state attorneys general and state regulators, 12 U.S.C. 5552, and prudential regulators including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and the National Credit Union Administration. See, e.g., 12 U.S.C. 5516(d), 5581(c)(2) (exclusive enforcement authority for banks and credit unions with $10 billion or less in assets). Some federal consumer financial laws are also enforceable by other federal agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, the Farm Credit Administration, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Agriculture. In addition, some of these laws provide for private enforcement.
Consumer Financial Protection Circulars are intended to promote consistency in approach across the various enforcement agencies and parties, pursuant to the CFPB’s statutory objective to ensure federal consumer financial law is enforced consistently. 12 U.S.C. 5511(b)(4). Consumer Financial Protection Circulars are also intended to provide transparency to partner agencies regarding the CFPB’s intended approach when cooperating in enforcement actions. See, e.g., 12 U.S.C. 5552(b) (consultation with CFPB by state attorneys general and regulators); 12 U.S.C. 5562(a) (joint investigatory work between CFPB and other agencies).
Consumer Financial Protection Circulars are general statements of policy under the Administrative Procedure Act. 5 U.S.C. 553(b). They provide background information about applicable law, articulate considerations relevant to the Bureau's exercise of its authorities, and, in the interest of maintaining consistency, advise other parties with authority to enforce federal consumer financial law. They do not restrict the Bureau’s exercise of its authorities, impose any legal requirements on external parties, or create or confer any rights on external parties that could be enforceable in any administrative or civil proceeding. The CFPB Director is instructing CFPB staff as described herein, and the CFPB will then make final decisions on individual matters based on an assessment of the factual record, applicable law, and factors relevant to prosecutorial discretion.