I’m a Tommy Lee Jones fan, I admit it. Heck, I’d buy a ticket just to watch him read the phone directory. His recent appearances in “Lincoln” and “Emperor” have made my movie year so far.
But it was one of his earlier works that came to mind recently as I contemplated some of the stories circulating about the supervisory and enforcement actions of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
In the 1993 movie, “The Fugitive,” Jones appeared with Harrison Ford. Ford played the part of Richard Kimble, a wealthy doctor wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife (who was really killed by a mysterious one-armed man, but you knew that). On his way to prison, Kimble escapes. Deputy Samuel Gerard, played by Jones, doggedly pursues Kimble.
At one point in the flick, Kimble gets cornered, as the ambulance he stole as a getaway vehicle gets trapped in a long tunnel that is part of a huge hydroelectric dam. Kimble slides into the drainage system underneath the road, with Gerard hot on his heels. In my favorite scene, Gerard catches up with Kimble just as the drainage tunnel he used to escape ends in a several-hundred-foot drop down the waterfall at the front of the dam.
“Stop,” Gerard says.
Kimble turns, and, facing Gerard, shouts, “I didn’t kill my wife.”
Gerard, using words that could be the motto of the CFPB, shouts back, “I don’t care!” Kimble then turns and takes a pretty swan-dive down the face of the dam, escaping yet again.
That’s the phrase that got me thinking about the bureau. When I listen to my clients complain about the CFPB’s latest activities, I can hear Dr. Kimble, playing the part of the bureau’s spokesperson, repeatedly responding, “We don’t care.”
See, when my industry friends bemoan the fact that they’re being steamrolled by regulators when the car finance business had little or nothing to do with the recent financial meltdown, the bureau says, “We don’t care.”
When my car finance friends complain that they never intentionally discriminate on a prohibited basis when extending credit, and that the bureau has stated that intent doesn’t matter because “disparate impact” is all they need, the bureau is basically saying, “We don’t care.”
When dealers and finance companies complain that the bureau’s new prohibition on “abusive” practices rests on a term, “abusive,” the bureau is unable or unwilling to define — much less say exactly what is and isn’t prohibited — the bureau says, “We don’t care.”
And, finally, when our clients tote up the cost of developing a compliance management system, hiring compliance personnel, reworking policies and procedures, preparing for and actually undergoing examinations, and object to all those costs because they result in very little benefit to consumers, the bureau all but screams, “We don’t care.”
The bureau’s indifference to these complaints should not be surprising. The bureau was created to protect consumers. That is its legislative mandate. It makes no effort to follow an even-handed approach to the problems it finds in the credit marketplace. It identifies those problems and sets out to protect the interests of its designated protectees: consumers.
Got a problem with that? They don’t care.