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Military lending enforcement not part of CFPB's mandate, director says

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's mandate does not include enforcing rules preventing lenders from charging high fees and rates to military members, its director told a Senate panel.

CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger upheld her position that the agency needs explicit authority from Congress to actively regulate loan products and lenders for military members.

She told the Senate Banking Committee in the second of two congressional hearings that she and her legal team determined that the Dodd-Frank Act does not specifically spell out that the agency needs to enforce the Military Lending Act, or MLA.

Kraninger specified that while the agency does have the authority to enforce the act, it can only do so when examiners are investigating other issues and MLA compliance surfaces.

"The Military Lending Act was not designated by Congress as one of the enumerated federal consumer financial laws," Kraninger said.

The CFPB chief sent a letter to congressional leadership in January requesting clear authority to conduct examinations to review Military Lending Act compliance. A week before the hearing, all 47 Senate Democrats signed a letter asking Kraninger to restart reviewing lending practices to service members, the second time the Senate Democrats have sent a letter to Kraninger about the issue.

The MLA caps the amount a creditor may charge on products lent to active duty service members and their families. The law limits loan product annual percentage rates to no more than 36%.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said the agency ought to be regulating those lenders more closely because the MLA explicitly states that it has the authority and mandate to regulate them, even if the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB, did not give that oversight to the CFPB.

"You would educate [servicemembers] on their rights under the MLA, you would enforce the MLA, but you would not actively go out as part of your examinations that you engage in already with payday lenders to ensure those payday lenders are not abusing the law when it comes to MLA," Cortez Masto said.

Kraninger argued that if the agency were to begin examining lending practices, it would also be compelled to scrutinize "safety and soundness" aspects of the lenders' businesses, which is not in the agency's purview.