David J. Reiss, Brooklyn Law School
K. Sabeel Rahman, Brooklyn Law School
Jeffrey Lederman, Brooklyn Law School
This is a comment on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (the “Bureau”) proposed Policy on No-Action Letters (the “Policy”). The Policy is a step in the right direction, but a more robust Policy could better help the Bureau achieve its statutory purposes.
The Bureau recognizes that there are situations in which consumer financial service businesses (“Businesses”) are uncertain as to the applicability of laws and rules related to new financial products (“Products”); how regulatory provisions might be applied to their Products; and what potential enforcement actions could be brought against them by regulatory agencies for noncompliance. Businesses could therefore benefit from the issuance of a No-Action Letter to reduce that uncertainty.
There is very little scholarly literature on the use of No-Action Letters by administrative agencies. In the absence of comprehensive studies, it is hard to precisely determine how to allocate agency resources to informal guidance as opposed to other types of regulatory action. Notwithstanding this, an agency should attempt to determine the optimal amount of its resources that should be devoted to informal guidance as opposed to the alternatives and then refine that initial estimate as experience dictates.
A rapidly changing field like consumer finance can benefit from the availability of quick and informal feedback for Businesses so long as the process is properly designed. Because the Policy would use a relatively small amount of Bureau resources compared to other types of regulatory action, a well-designed No-Action Letter Policy would be a win-win-win for Businesses, for the Bureau and for consumers.