Finance watchdog gives bite to Dodd-Frank

"I'm completely happy with the fact that they did one, and they did one well," Mierzwinski says. "One more next year is not good enough, but I don't think that's going to be the case."

CFPB gets high marks

Remarkably, given their staunch opposition to the agency's creation during the run-up to passage of Dodd-Frank, financial industry professionals say they have been pleasantly surprised by the direction the CFPB has taken so far, says Anne Wallace, senior director of consumer financial services for the Financial Services Roundtable, a financial industry trade group.

"The industry had a lot of question marks as to what this was going to be like. Sometimes people fear the worst," Wallace says. "But in fact, the people at CFPB want to build, as they put it, a 21st-century agency that communicates directly with consumers, that communicates a lot with the industry, that's fact-based, data-based, and this is a new model."

Wallace has been impressed by the CFPB staff with which she's had dealings.

"My experience has been quite positive," she says. "We have worked quite closely with them on a variety of regulatory issues, and the first thing you notice about them is how smart they are. They have some really top people who are committed, hardworking and genuinely curious about how the industry works."

She says CFPB regulators have been more accessible and transparent than regulators in the past, and that has helped foster good relations with the banks they oversee.

"They will call you back sometimes after hours," she says. "I've been a banking lawyer for a long time, and I think they are more transparent than the other agencies I've dealt with."

Still, the agency has faced the growing pains of an organization that's gone from zero employees to nearly 1,000 in just two years.

"I think that the CFPB is still finding its sea legs," says William Binzel, counsel to the board of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C. "The way that the statute is written, it gives them a tremendous amount of responsibility and regulatory authority, and I think they're trying to find their stride as to what are the priorities at this point and where their focus should be initially."

At times, the agency also has struggled to deal with preparing its employees to handle the flood of consumer complaints. An independent audit commissioned by the CFPB in the fall of 2011 found problems with coordination and responses to consumer calls.

The rush to staff the new agency also has created some challenges for financial industry professionals, Wallace says.

"They've hired close to 1,000 people in a year, and so it's hard to keep track of who's there and to know who to call sometimes," Wallace says. "It's just a maturation process."


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