It’s that time again—time to play a round of Name That Regulator!
Ready to play? Here’s your hint:
This agency, which oversees the consumer financial services sector, recently got a new director who—despite criticism from consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers—has continued to drive the agency’s mission forward.
Can you guess which regulator I’m referring to?
If you guessed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, sorry, but you’re wrong. For once, we’re not talking about the CFPB. The regulatory agency alluded to above is actually the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
That’s right: the FTC has its own consumer protection wing. The BCP isn’t to be confused with the BCFP, Mick Mulvaney’s preferred nomenclature for the CFPB (feeling overloaded with regulatory alphabet soup yet?), but one could be forgiven for mixing up the two. Both agencies are responsible for enforcing consumer protection laws at the federal level, both have numerous legal actions pending against lenders, and both have undergone changes in leadership over the past year.
It’s that last bit—the people in charge—where the agencies perhaps vary most. While Mulvaney has at least paid lip service to pulling back on aggressive enforcement, his counterpart at the FTC’s BCP, Andrew Smith, has a different mindset:
“Mr. Smith stated that his role as BCP director is to ensure the smooth functioning of the bureau, which essentially operates as a law enforcement agency, and to ensure all of the commissioners’ concerns are reflected in the operations and policy direction of the CPB. Mr. Smith indicated that there is little interest among the commissioners in rethinking the FTC’s law enforcement mission. Practitioners who were expecting a different FTC under the current administration may be surprised at how serious the FTC remains regarding its law enforcement mission.”
That’s according to a recent interview with the man himself. Speaking with the Consumer Financial Services Committee of the American Bar Association a few weeks back, Mr. Smith discussed the BCP’s enforcement philosophy, as well as its current priorities, which include privacy, data security, and increased fintech oversight.
Financial services professionals may find the interview surprising given how much talk of federal deregulation we see in the news these days. Based on what Mr. Smith told the ABA, the BCP appears to be ramping up enforcement and pursuing even greater remedies than before:
“According to Mr. Smith, there has been increased pressure from the commissioners to maximize money relief obtained from enforcement actions. Mr. Smith cited recent statements from Chairman Joseph Simons and Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter regarding the FTC’s recently formed remedies task force as an indication that the FTC is rethinking and focusing on forms of remedies it may pursue.”