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From The Mailbag: Financial Account Monitoring

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

As active participants in the decisions made in Congress, Idahoans contact me with valuable input about the issues our country faces.  Realizing that many may not have the chance to contact me, I post the top five issues of concern from Idahoans and my responses on my website.  Interest in the nomination of Richard Cordray to be Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is among the issues constituents have contacted me about recently.  News accounts have reported theCFPB may be monitoring up to 900 million credit card accounts and is currently spending more than $20 million to collect and analyze this data.  These reports are a cause of concern for me, and should be for those Idahoans and all Americans whose financial and credit data is sent to the Bureau each month.  The following is my response:

On July 16, 2013, Mr. Cordray's nomination was confirmed by a 66-34 vote by the Senate.  I voted against Mr. Cordray's confirmation because it was essential that Congress address much-needed structural reforms to the CFPB before confirming any nominee.  
The CFPB was established unlike any other federal department or agency.  The Dodd-Frank Act specifically elevated the Director of the CFPB so that he or she holds unique power to determine the agency's budget and mission priorities without any public accountability or oversight from Congress.
To alleviate these and other concerns, structural changes to the CFPB are essential.  Moving from a single director to a board format will enhance transparency and accountability.  In addition, the agency should be subject to the federal appropriations process so that the public has a role in determining how monies are being spent-especially on items such as third-party contracts and outside services.  Finally, the prudential banking regulators need to have more than just informal input into the CFPB's policy and rulemaking decisions.
The Dodd-Frank Act gives a sole individual-the Director of the CFPB-unchecked powers unlike any other federal official.  Already we have seen the CFPB undertake unimagined interest in the personal financial information of the American people,thus raising questions that this unchecked agency is watching Americans instead of watching out for them. 

The size and scope of CFPB's data collection on personal financial accounts warrant proper government oversight to guard consumers' privacy and ensure the agency is acting within its existing authority.  Because it is unknown exactly what information is being collected, on how many accounts, and how it is being used, I requested the independent Government Accountability Office investigate the agency's data collection practice.  That request has been accepted and an investigation is underway.

Regardless of the administration in charge, either Republican or Democrat, the CFPB's structure must be revised to fit the models of traditional departments and agencies.  Otherwise, it will continue to lack the necessary transparency and public accountability to the people it is supposed to serve.  As Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee, I will continue to work with my colleagues to push for these commonsense reforms.

To view responses to the top five issues of interest, please visit my website at:  The messages you send me help to shape my approach on a number of important matters.  Please continue to keep me informed of your views. 

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