Dave Uejio, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), announced late last week some changes to the agency’s policies he outlined in an email to Bureau staff. Because of the scale of the announcement, Uejio elected to release the email publicly via the CFPB’s official blog.
“I know that the Bureau’s staff shares my devotion to the Bureau’s mission, and I look forward to serving in this latest capacity,” Uejio said. “In furtherance of that mission, I shared the following statement to everyone at the CFPB. Since our work affects the lives of so many people, I thought it appropriate to share it publicly.”
While some might interpret this change in direction as a shot at the leadership of the Bureau under the administration of President Donald Trump, Uejio explains that he does not intend any policy changes he undertakes as acting director to be interpreted as a slight against any members of the Trump administration.
“I know it has been a tough year for everyone working and living through a pandemic, and that you all have pushed through despite tragedy and loss,” he tells CFPB staff. “This email conveys a change of direction, but it is not intended as a criticism of how our professional team executed on the prior leadership’s direction.”
Much of the direction that Uejio is charting for the Bureau is squarely focused on providing relief for consumers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the acting director has also stated his desire to move the Bureau in the direction of facilitating racial justice. However, Uejio also explained that there is some action the CFPB can take when it comes to the actions of mortgage servicers.
“One thing we can do immediately is focus our supervision and enforcement tools on overseeing the companies responsible for COVID relief,” he said. “I am concerned about the findings described in last week’s Supervisory Highlights edition that companies are failing to properly administer relief through the crisis.”
Among those “concerning” findings, Uejio says that mortgage servicers gave consumers “inaccurate and incomplete information” about forbearance options available to them under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act; that servicers withdrew money even when consumers were in deferment; and at least one student loan servicer denied thousands of forbearance extensions because the loan holder “never responded.”
“With that in mind, I have directed [the Supervision, Enforcement & Fair Lending division] (SEFL) to always determine the full scope of issues found in its exams, systemically remediate all of those who are harmed, and change policies, procedures, and practices to address the root causes of harms,” Uejio explained. “For the Prioritized Assessments that do not already do this, I want Supervision to follow up to ensure it is done, without conducting new follow-up exams. Companies that have not already received instructions from our examiners should expect to receive letters in the mail soon.”
While not detailing any planned enforcement actions, Uejio nonetheless says that for these instances, “penalties may be necessary.” He is also expediting COVID-19-related enforcement investigations in order to speed up any action that can be taken, “to ensure that industry gets the message that violations of law during this time of need will not be tolerated,” Uejio says.
Uejio was named as acting director of the CFPB by President Joe Biden one day after the president’s inauguration. He will serve until the president’s nominee for the full-time position — Federal Trade Commissioner Rohit Chopra — is confirmed by the Senate.
Read the message at the CFPB blog.