Pallone Demands Investigation into Fake Comments on CFPB’s Payday Lending Rule
Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) sent a letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Acting Director Mick Mulvaney today requesting an investigation into the widespread submission of fake public comments during consideration of the payday lending rule. Pallone has also joined three other Democratic Committee Ranking Members in requesting a formal inquiry by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to determine whether the submission of fraudulent comments at numerous agencies, including CFPB, violated federal law.
“I am writing to request that you investigate the widespread submission of fake public comments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rulemaking to curb predatory payday lending practices,” Pallone wrote to Acting Director Mulvaney. “I also urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that such interference in the comment process is prevented going forward.”
A recent investigative report by The Wall Street Journal uncovered millions of fraudulent comments at five federal agencies, including the CFPB. As many as 40 percent of the comments submitted to CFPB in opposition to the payday lending rulemaking appear to be fake, using stolen or obsolete email accounts. Even more insidious, false comments opposing consumer safeguards were submitted under the names of victims of predatory lending practices, including one woman who ended up owing more than $8,000 on a $323 payday loan.
According to The Wall Street Journal’s report, a significant portion of the fake comments originated from a comment-generating platform and web address used by the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA), a trade group representing payday lenders.
Pallone continued in his letter, “As you work to determine who was involved and to hold them accountable, you must also adopt procedures to ensure that such foul play cannot continue. The public comment process simply should not be undermined in this way.”
Pallone’s letter to CFPB is available HERE.