January 12, 2011

The Treasury Department, parent to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the Dodd-Frank Act, has issued a detailed description of the complaint database it wants to use to enable Elizabeth Warren and her CFPB implementation team to collect, respond to and refer consumer inquiries and complaints about consumer financial products and services. The database sounds like it will be very comprehensive and shared with many other government and legal entities.

In addition to storing all the complaints it receives directly from consumers or lawyers or others representing consumers, the CFPB will be gathering complaints from all bank and credit union regulators, at the state and federal level.

At least ten types of data will be stored in the database: (1) correspondence or other information received from or made by complainants, consumers, or other individuals or entities; (2) information from the entity or individual referring the inquiry or complaint; (3) records created of verbal communications by or with complainants or other individuals; (4) information regarding third party advocates or others who submit complaints or inquiries on another's behalf; (5) information identifying the entity that is subject to the complaint or inquiry; (6) communication with or by the entity that is subject to the complaint or inquiry; (7) unique identifiers, codes, and descriptors categorizing each complaint or inquiry file; (8) information about how complaints were responded to or referred; (9) records used to respond to or refer complaints, including information in the CFPB Implementation Team's other systems of records; and (10) identifiable information regarding both the individual who is making the inquiry or complaint, and the individual on whose behalf such inquiry or complaint is made, including name, social security number, account numbers, address, phone number, e-mail address, date of birth.

The data will be used to respond to or refer complaints or inquiries; to inform other functions of the CFPB Implementation Team and, as appropriate, other agencies and/or the public; and to prepare reports as required by law.

The information may be disclosed to a broad array of people, including the financial services provider that is subject of the complaint or inquiry; a court, magistrate, or administrative tribunal in the course of presenting evidence, including disclosures to opposing counsel or witnesses in the course of civil discovery, litigation, or settlement negotiations; a court, magistrate, or administrative tribunal pursuant to an order of a court of competent jurisdiction, where relevant or potentially relevant to a proceeding, or in connection with criminal law proceedings; third parties to the extent necessary to obtain information needed for a response to or referral of a complaint or inquiry; appropriate law enforcement agencies or authorities in connection with the investigation and/or prosecution of alleged civil, criminal, and administrative violations; a congressional office in response to an inquiry made at the request of the individual to whom the record pertains; the appropriate governmental, Tribal, self-regulatory or professional organizations if that organization has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint or inquiry, or over the entity that is the subject of the complaint or inquiry; another Federal agency to (a) permit a decision as to access, amendment or correction of records to be made in consultation with or by that agency, or (b) verify the identity of an individual or the accuracy of information submitted by an individual who has requested access to or amendment or correction of records; (9) other Federal and nonfederal governmental supervisory or regulatory authorities when the subject matter is within such other agency's jurisdiction; (10) the U.S. Department of Justice for its use in providing legal advice to the Treasury or in representing the Treasury in a proceeding before a court, adjudicative body, or other administrative body before which the Treasury is authorized to appear, where the use of such information by the DOJ is deemed by the Treasury to be relevant and necessary to the litigation, and such proceeding names as a party or interests: (a) the Treasury or any component thereof; (b) any employee of the Treasury in his or her official capacity; (c) any employee of the Treasury in his or her individual capacity where DOJ has agreed to represent the employee; or (d) the United States, where the Treasury determines that litigation is likely to affect the Treasury or any of its components; (11) The National Archives and Records Administration for use in records management inspections; (12) a contractor or agent who needs to have access to this system of records to perform an assigned activity; (13) appropriate agencies, entities, and persons when (a) the Treasury suspects or has confirmed that the security or confidentiality of information in the system of records has been compromised; (b) the Treasury has determined that as a result of the suspected or confirmed compromise there is a risk of harm to economic or property interests, identity theft or fraud, or harm to the security or integrity of this system or other systems or programs (whether maintained by the Treasury or another agency or entity) that rely upon the compromised information; and (c) the disclosure made to such agencies, entities, and persons is [Page Number 1509] reasonably necessary to assist in connection with the Treasury's efforts to respond to the suspected or confirmed compromise and prevent, minimize, or remedy such harm; (14) prudential regulators (including without limitation Federal banking agencies and the National Credit Union Administration), the Federal Trade Commission, other Federal agencies, and State agencies, for the purpose of facilitating the activities described in 12 U.S.C. 5493(b)(3)(D) concerning consumer financial products and services complaints; (15) government agencies and the public, in the form of analytic and statistical reports, summaries, or extracts in which individual identities are not revealed, in order to provide information about trends and patterns derived from information contained in complaint records; and (16) persons determined to be complainants and/or victims, to the extent the Treasury deems necessary, at its discretion, in order to provide such persons with information concerning the progress and/or results of the investigation or case arising from the matters of which they complained and/or of which they were a victim.

The records will be stored as electronic documents in file folders. They will be retrievable by a variety of fields including, but not limited to, the individual's name, Social Security number, complaint/inquiry case number, address, account number, transaction number, phone number, date of birth, or by some combination thereof.

Comments on the proposed database are being accepted until February 9, 2011, when the new system is scheduled to take effect.

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