[Note: This article has been updated to include additional information about the Post-Examination Survey Program]
In its recently published Annual Report to the Director, the CFPB's Ombudsman Office describes a beta program launched this year to survey companies post-CFPB examination.
Starting on page 14 of the report, the CFPB's Ombudsman, Wendy Kamenshine, lays out the process the Bureau went through in conceiving, developing, and beta-testing these post-examination surveys.
[There's a chance you may not be entirely clear as to what an ombudsman does. An ombudsman is an impartial, disinterested party that reviews a company's practices from all sides, with the goal of providing information and insight to the company about the company's behavior and perception in the marketplace. An ombudsman's role is complicated: they are the employee of the company, but they do not necessarily represent the company. Think of them as an outside advocate.]
According to the CFPB's ombudsman, the goal of this post-examination survey is to
[E]stablish a survey tool to be used solely by the Ombudsman to confidentially gather feedback from supervised entities in accordance with our professional ombudsman standards of practice. [...] The Ombudsman will review survey outcomes, using techniques that not only inform our work but also allow us to provide unattributed feedback and any recommendations to the CFPB from our unique perspective. At the same time, the Ombudsman survey tool will not collect, analyze, or report on examiner performance or the specific details of any given supervisory examination.
The Ombudsman's office identified the following examination practice areas to focus on in its post-examination survey. From page 16:
- Supervision materials and resources – Includes topics such as information availability, functionality, and content for review by entity representatives who will engage with any part of the examination.
- Interpersonal communications – Includes communications between entity representatives and anyone at the CFPB before, during, or after an examination, using any medium or format.
- End of the examination – Includes topics such as timing, knowledge of outcomes or resolutions, clarity in expectations of closure, and awareness of the appeals process.
Companies for the beta test were drawn from CFPB supervised entities across the spectrum. To protect the privacy of those companies, and to ensure answers were as candid and honest as possible, only the CFPB Office of the Ombudsman knows the identites of the companies chosen. (Were you one of the companies? Do you want to tell us what the post-examination survey was like for your company? We'd LOVE to hear it: firstname.lastname@example.org. We, too, guarantee your privacy.)
Members of the Office of Ombudsman asked three questions in this beta survey:
1) What worked?
2) What didn't?
3) What would you change?
What will be done with the information those companies in the beta process provided?
Great question. In the beta version, the Ombudsman reported, "We plan to provide the CFPB with a summary of the beta test survey participants’ unattributed feedback and recommendations, for the agency’s consideration."
It seems likely the Ombudsman's Office will continue this method of data-sharing with the Bureau when this post-examination survey is rolled out in its final version.
Are these post-examination surveys going to be a regular thing?
From a blog post written by Wendy Kamenshine: "Following completion of our annual report, we concluded our beta test evaluation and determined that our office will conduct a post-examination survey of supervised entities as a new initiative going forward." So yes. These are a new initiative for the CFPB.