Report: Financial Services Roundtable Steps Back From Consumer Bureau Fight

The Financial Services Roundtable, led by onetime politician Tim Pawlenty, rankled some feathers with the launch of a PR campaign targeting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But a new report suggests the trade group may have pushed members out of their comfort zone.

On second thought, fighting the rumor mill wasn’t such a good idea.

Last month, the Financial Services Roundtable drew attention to a planned change to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) complaints database using a strategy akin to a political campaign. But its members reportedly weren’t so comfortable with “CFPB Rumors,” so the roundtable is dropping the campaign this week.

According to Bloomberg, it came down to discomfort over going on the attack against a regulatory body. While members generally approved of the message—that the addition of narratives to the CFPB’s consumer-complaint database was problematic for the industry—members like Bank of America and Citigroup reportedly weren’t prepared for, or briefed on, a direct onslaught aimed at the public, according to sources reached by Bloomberg.

Some members had anxiety. It involved some risk.

“Some members had anxiety,” former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the president and CEO of the group, told the wire service. “It involved some risk.”

The report suggested that FSR members had apologized to CFPB officials for the campaign. The bureau had complained publicly about the campaign soon after it was launched.

However, the association did dispute the narrative of the Bloomberg piece, with FSR Vice President of Communications Alison Hawkins noting to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that the “media effort last month raised real questions that should be asked and deserve explanation.”

“The CFPB plan to post unverified narratives should be concerning to any consumer looking for facts from their government,” she added.

Pawlenty did note to Bloomberg that the roundtable was unlikely to do a similar public campaign on the issue.

While the Bloomberg story suggests that the campaign may have backfired among members, it’s worth noting that Pawlenty’s term as FSR leader—which came after a failed presidential run and after work as a consultant for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign—has otherwise been seen as successful, according to the wire service. The roundtable, which represents the interests of large banks, has drawn attention in recent months for its cybersecurity collaborations with the retail sector in the form of the Merchant Financial Cyber Partnership.

FSR President and CEO Tim Pawlenty said that there was some member discomfort about the campaign. (Steve Pope/Getty Images)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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