Roll out the welcome mat! San Francisco will house one of the first satellite offices for the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, recently launched last week.
Along with similar offices in Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C., the CFPB’s San Francisco office will be home base for regional “examiners”, appointed by the agency to initiate the CFPB’s oversight powers.
Before getting into more detail on the CFPB’s work in San Francisco, here’s a quick primer on the CFPB.
Who is the CFPB?
Created last year as part of the groundbreaking Dodd-Frank Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a federal regulatory agency that seeks to protect consumers from the abusive and predatory practices and products of the financial industry. The CFPB will have powers to oversee, regulate, and retaliate against any violations of financial laws.
Coined “the government’s watchdog,” the CFPB has been under fire by big banks, financial companies, and many Capitol Hill Republicans for having too much power in the hands of one agency director within one government entity. The CFPB officially opened for business on July 21, but without a director (Elizabeth Warren, popular contender for the role, headed back up to Harvard) and amidst controversy over its true responsibilities.
What will the CFPB do?
The CFPB will essentially oversee financial institutions and enforce fair practices and products, dealing with everything consumer finance-related from exorbitant credit card interest rates to shady lending terms, to ensure companies follow the regulations of consumer protection laws. For example, the CFPB plans to standardize and simplify often-confusing mortgage applications, and police credit card companies for violations of consumer rights. With its regulatory powers not fully outlined yet, the CFPB’s website continues to look to consumers for suggestions on what specific and urgent financial issues to address.
What’s the CFPB doing in San Francisco?
One of the official and immediate actions of the CFPB is to dispatch examiners to supervise over 100 large banks and non-bank financial firms, which control a total of 80% of the U.S. banking industry’s assets. These examiners will have an office in major cities, including San Francisco, and will visit firms like Bank of America, Citigroup, and J.P Morgan Chase & Co. to inspect banks’ books, records, and meet with financial executives to ensure companies are following consumer protection laws.
San Francisco’s examiners will oversee banks in 17 western states. Edwin L. Chow, former deputy regional director with the federal Office of Thrift Supervision in Daly City, has been named the regional director of the CFPB’s San Francisco’s office. Chow’s office is already recruiting more examiners, including openings for Assistant Regional Director and Field Manager, for any interested financial reform enthusiasts out there.
In a press release, CFPB representatives stated, “A diverse and talented team of examiners throughout the country, managed out of satellite offices in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., will form the front line in the CFPB’s supervisory efforts. Each of these satellite offices will be the nexus for CFPB supervision in their respective areas of the country.” Looking ahead, San Francisco as the western headquarters for the CFPB could have interesting implications for the local economy and business.
As the CFPB continues to take shape, examiners will work parallel with the CFPB to enforce and correct any violations of consumer protection laws. Examiners have already begun the first round of on-site examinations following last week’s launch. If you see a CFPB examiner in San Francisco, feel free to share ideas on the consumer protections you think are pressing and necessary to enact. Only with our experiences and input can the CFPB hope to become the relevant, effective government powerhouse it aspires to be.
Justine Rivero is the Credit Advisor and resident Credit Rockstar for Credit Karma, the pro-consumer credit advocate that helps more than 3 million consumers realize the everyday cost savings of having great credit health.