Before the CFPB issues controversial rules, the agency generally holds a series of town hall meetings to gather feedback from the public. Most people would assume that the audience participants who give their thoughts to the panelists are private citizens offering their opinions. But the CFPB recently paid for an audience member to travel and appear at one of the CFPB’s forums and give his thoughts in support of the agency’s rules on indirect auto lenders.
It’s not unheard of for federal agencies to pay for witnesses to testify at their hearings. However, usually those witnesses are part of an official panels, separate from audience members.
In an interview with American Banker, the CFPB’s witness, Douglas Lane, said: “They paid my way up there. I flew in the night before, they put me in the Club Quarters, they paid for the whole nine yards…They wanted me to be there.”
So why didn’t the CFPB tell the public Lane’s testimony was financially supported by the agency? A spokesperson said the agency did not disclose the connection publicly because Lane’s role was “limited.”
The agency’s much-touted commitment to “open government” clearly has its limits.