JUNE 18, 2013
Judicial Watch has obtained documents, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which reveal the agency has spent millions to track — down to the neighborhood level — the financial activity of unwitting Americans without their permission. “[B]ig data is the cutting edge of analysis and research right now in every field that involves analytics in this country,” testified Richard Cordray when questioned about the agency’s conduct by the U.S. Senate Banking Committee during a hearing on April 23, 2013. “Uh, you know, IBM, the big banks, every company that deals with the public is gathering and crunching as much data as they can.” The hearing prompted Judicial Watch to launch this investigation into the federal government’s newest agency.
According to the documents received through a FOIA request filed on April 24, 2013, CFPB’s strides in the data collection race include:
- overlapping contracts with multiple credit reporting agencies and accounting firms to gather, store, and share credit card data as shown in the task list of a contract with Argus Information & Advsy Srs LLC worth $2.9M. ;
- an “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity” contract with Experian worth up to $8,426,650 to track daily consumer habits of select individuals down to the zip code-plus-four level without their awareness or assent;
- minimal background checks for most contractors and a requirement that staffers possess some alien status, though which status is expected is not specified;
- the largest sum so far (i.e. $4,951,333 for software and instruction) paid to Deloitte Consulting LLP, reported by Forbes to have been at the heart of a conflict of interest in auditing the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).
Cordray continues to act as CFPB’s director despite a federal court’s invalidation of his “recess” appointment as unconstitutional on Jan. 25, 2013. He replaced as de facto head of the agency Elizabeth Warren, now U.S. Senator for Massachusetts and a delegate to the banking committee. CFPB, which was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act of 2010, is not dependent on the appropriations process for its funding, currently amounting to $350 million, per the attached balance sheet. Because it is funded by a percentage of fees collected by the Federal Reserve, CFPB is not subject to fiscal constraints imposed by the U.S. Congress on other executive branch agencies. The combined value of all contracts released by CFPB last week respecting its data collection efforts are worth at least $11,792,134.75 and possibly as much as $18,595,984.75 given the indefinite nature of some of the agreements.