Whistleblowers occupy a precarious position in corporate America.
On the one hand, these current or former employees, contractors, vendors and competitors may be traitors to their employers or industries, calling them out for their bad behavior. On the other hand, these same folks can be heroes to consumers, metaphorically blowing that whistle on companies that violate consumer protection laws.
That duality might explain why the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, has introduced a new email address, Whistleblower@cfpb.gov, and a toll-free tips hotline, (855) 695-7974, to help whistleblowers alert the bureau to potential violations of federal consumer financial laws. An online tips portal accessible through the CFPB website is due in early 2012.
The CFPB was founded to help consumers gain greater protections in purchasing financial products and services such as mortgages, credit cards and bank accounts.
Richard Cordray, CFPB's assistant director of enforcement, explained in a statement whistleblowers and other knowledgeable sources will now have direct lines of communication to the agency.
"Their tips will help inform bureau strategy, investigations and enforcement. And they will help us fulfill our commitment to consumers," he said.
Whistleblowers are encouraged to provide contact information because that may help the bureau investigate and remediate potential violations of federal consumer financial laws. But whistleblowers can request confidentiality or even remain anonymous to the extent permitted by law, the bureau said.
Section 1057 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act promises anti-retaliation protections for employees of consumer financial products and services companies and their representatives who share information about potential violations. Employees protected by the statute cannot be fired or discriminated against for providing information, testifying about potential violations, filing a lawsuit under a federal consumer financial law or objecting to or refusing to participate in violations of those laws.
According to its website, the CFPB can conduct rule-making, supervision and enforcement of federal consumer financial protection laws; restrict unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices; take consumer complaints; promote financial education; research consumer behavior; monitor financial markets for new risks to consumers, and enforce laws that outlaw discrimination and other unfair treatment in consumer finance.
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