Medical and Consumer Debt Trends Peppered into Discussions at CFPB Banking Town Hall

ACA board member Jennifer Whipple and CFPB Director Rohit Chopra.

The bureau released a request for comment on “relationship banking” for consumers, especially in rural areas, as part of the CFPB banking town hall at Montana State University. ACA board member Jennifer Whipple from Montana spoke at the event on behalf of the ARM industry.

06/16/2022 2 P.M.

3 minute read

A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau town hall at Montana State University June 14 covered banking resources for consumers in rural areas, medical debt and the impact of regulations on small businesses, among other topics.

ACA International board member and president of Collection Bureau Service in Missoula, Montana, Jennifer Whipple, attended the town hall to address concerns about the bureau’s recent approach to rulemaking and messaging about the work of the accounts receivable management (ARM) industry and ACA members.

“In recent months, leadership of the CFPB has used a rhetoric about our industry that insinuates we are made up entirely of bad actors and we are seeking to harm consumers,” Whipple said, also shown in a video from the town hall here.

“This couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Whipple said. “It’s offensive to the thousands of women and men in our industry who engage in collections work.”

CFPB Director Rohit Chopra hosted the discussion with local community organizations, advocates, leaders and members of the public about challenges faced by rural residents in Montana and how banking deserts adversely impact Montana’s financial landscape.

In addition to those topics, Chopra said the CFPB is “very focused” on the issues surrounding medical debt credit reporting.

Whipple urged the bureau to engage with stakeholders before making sweeping policy changes that impact health care providers, their debt collection partners and consumers.

Additional Takeaways

  • The CFPB announced during the town hall it is seeking public comment regarding “relationship banking and customer service” to determine what information would be helpful for consumers to be able to obtain from their banks. “This new banking landscape has completely changed the way we all save our money, apply for credit, and live our financial lives,” Chopra said in his prepared remarks at the town hall. It has presented challenges for many, but it has been particularly hard on rural America. Consolidation and new banking models happened at relatively the same time that many rural communities lost access to local banks.”
  • Bruce Hoyer, CEO of Belt Valley Bank in Belt, Montana, and one of the panelists at the town hall, said large-scale regulations from the bureau can impact small businesses, and the bureau, as it considers new rules, should keep a “level playing field” so it’s not overregulating one industry and underregulating another.
  • In 2010, a ballot initiative in Montana capped the annual interest rates for payday and title loans at 36%. The previous interest rate cap was 400%. During the town hall, Chopra asked panelist Greg Harper, with the Rural Dynamics financial counseling agency in Great Falls, Montana, how the lending environment changed after the referendum. Harper said lending and consumer debt issues transitioned to a different set of challenges from payday loans. “It’s not like the problem went away—it morphed into different challenges,” Harper said, adding that he saw consumers were able to pay down their debts during the pandemic. “I am seeing the debt issue is not really where it was five or six years ago,” Harper said.

ACA will provide more takeaways from the town hall in ACA Daily. Also, mark your calendars for a compliance Hot Topic on July 14 focused on the bureau’s latest supervisory highlights report, enforcement actions and more.

If you have executive leadership updates or other member news to share with ACA, contact our communications department at [email protected]. View our publications page for more information and our news submission guidelines here

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