United States: The Myth Of Fingerprints: Maturity In Compliance

Last Updated: January 19 2016
Article by David K. Stein

There is a generally subscribed to notion that "my bank or mortgage company" will not be held accountable for compliance and will not be the subject of close regulatory scrutiny given its business model, size, history, etc. A common conclusion is that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is simply focusing on the "big fish," looking for large trophies to show off, and that smaller lenders, community banks and even credit unions have an implied "pass" to skate by without giving much thought to compliance management or corporate governance.

Fingerprints are unique to each individual. Likewise, every company is unique. Thus, the notion that onerous examination, and the need to plan and develop a mature compliance strategy, differs from one financial institution to another is akin to the myth of fingerprints. Paul Simon sang about this myth: the false notion that every person, with his or her unique qualities, is different from one another — when, in fact, we are all the same. This is evident through the CFPB's actions during its relatively short history.

We have all read about large enforcement actions for egregious failures in various aspects of compliance management. The CFPB has covered nearly every area of concern: advertising and sales practices, originator compensation, fair lending and kickbacks, to name a few. These actions have hit large and small institutions alike.

What is not closely tracked, and is only available by anecdotal discussion, is that the CFPB has examined hundreds of banks and nonbank lenders. In doing so, the bureau has closely reviewed every detail of a company's operations. Typically, examiners issue private guidance and specific expectations for the future based on their findings. And, usually, the results are not pretty. This is all the more evident when considering that the CFPB will return in three to six months to assess whether a company has corrected its failures.

It is notable that the CFPB has not financially crippled every institution in which it has found problems. However, the bureau is continuously learning, and examiners are becoming very familiar with common weak points and vulnerabilities. By now, they have seen it all, again and again.

The results of these private reports are sometimes a harsh wake up call. More and more, the lessons to be learned are the same. Bank and nonbank lenders are repeatedly being held culpable for failing to maintain a mature compliance management system and provide proper governance and oversight. These institutions, because of a failure to plan, then open themselves up to repeated CFPB visits, very significant costs of correction and continued oversight by "big brother."

If you are a student of the CFPB's examination manual, one would assume that the bureau views compliance as "one size fits all." The same goes for examination guidelines from the OCC, FDIC and state regulators. While one size does not fit all, there is a commonality among all financial institutions — the need to plan and execute a comprehensive system of checks and balances.

This is not accomplished by simply publishing policies that are bought off the shelf or by reacting, after the fact, to changes and new guidance (as we have seen in the past month on the subject of MSAs). It is accomplished by being proactive and dedicating thought and resources to discover and fix problems before they become systemic in nature.

It is expected that every institution will have a system in place that provides effective oversight and control over every element of its business. The need for that system to be a central pillar in every organization — to display the maturity desired by the CFPB — is the same for every regulated institution.

Yes, every lender may have its own set of fingerprints. However, the need for every lender to maintain effective management and control is the same across the board. Every financial institution is in the same boat, whether or not you think the CFPB will examine you and whether or not you feel your organization is subject to the bureau's oversight. (Yes, they can and will regulate any company coming between a consumer and its money.)

As more and more companies are receiving "private" write-ups for failing to maintain a "mature" compliance management system, we expect to see large fines and published penalties on this very subject in the near future. They are definitely in the works.

What is the correct action plan? The first step is honest evaluation and gap analysis of where your company may be falling short. This is often best accomplished by an outsider with a fresh set of eyes. Companies must also tighten their governance structure and document their efforts. When the CFPB comes knocking, you must have something to report. When we are asked by clients to evaluate these issues, we often see an absence of structure and a lack of planning and accountability.

Large and small banks, credit unions and nonbank lenders continually fall into the same traps. They are not unique. However, the art of implementing effective tools to fit each company's particular gaps is where companies may differ, and where a trained outsider can assist.

What are you doing to address this issue? Are you prepared to handle the scrutiny that may be headed your way?

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.