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CFPB to Supervise US Debt Collectors

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, has announced a proposed rule to include debt collectors and consumer reporting agencies under its nonbank supervision program. According to the CFPB, this would mark the first time these important and far-reaching consumer financial market participants are subject to federal supervision.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which created the CFPB, authorizes the CFPB to supervise non-banks in the specific markets of residential mortgage, payday lending, and private education lending. In addition, for other nonbank markets for consumer financial products or services, the CFPB has the authority to supervise “larger participants.” As directed by Dodd-Frank, the Bureau must define such “larger participants” by rule, and an initial such rule must be issued by July 21, 2012. Last summer, the CFPB sought public comment about possible markets to include in the initial rule and available data sources the Bureau could use to define larger participants in – markets.

Under the proposed rule, debt collectors with more than $10 million in annual receipts from debt collection activities would be subject to supervision. Based on available data, the CFPB estimates that the proposed rule would cover approximately 175 debt collection firms — or 4 percent of debt collection firms — and that these firms account for 63 percent of annual receipts from the debt collection market.

Under the proposed rule, consumer debt collection or reporting agencies with more than $7 million in annual receipts from consumer reporting activities would be subject to supervision. This would include approximately 7 percent of consumer reporting agencies based on available data. The proposed threshold would allow the CFPB to cover about 30 consumer reporting agencies. The CFPB estimates that these 30 companies account for about 94 percent of the annual receipts from consumer reporting.

This is the CFPB’s first in a series of rulemakings to define larger participants. The CFPB chose annual receipts as the criterion for both debt collection and consumer reporting because it approximates market participation in these two markets. As the CFPB adds new markets, it will choose the best criteria and the appropriate thresholds for each market.