The Secure Times

An online forum of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law's Privacy and Information Security Committee

Inside the Session: Suzanne Wachsstock on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at the 59th Antitrust Law Spring Meeting

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Editor’s Note:  “Inside the Session” is a sneak preview of the privacy and information security-related sessions that will take place at the 59th Antitrust Law Spring Meeting.  For more information on the conference, visit the ABA’s page on the event.

Created by the Dodd-Frank Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) is part of a wider regulatory effort to make “markets for consumer financial products and services work in a fair, transparent, and competitive manner.”  The CFPB, which has existed since last July, receives regulatory authority from the Secretary of the Treasury on July 21, 2011.  Due to uncertainty in the financial sector surrounding the scope of the new bureau’s authority, the House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee held an oversight hearing on March 16, 2011.  There, CFPB chairperson Elizabeth Warren testified that the bureau’s purpose is to “make markets work for buyers and sellers alike.”  Warren’s testimony drives to the heart of the questions posed at the Spring Meeting session on the CFPB:  What role will the CFBP have in antitrust enforcement and consumer protection

The Secure Times recently met with Suzanne Wachsstock, who will moderate the session entitled: “A New Paradigm: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Antitrust Enforcement.”  Wachsstock—a vice president and Chief Antitrust Counsel for American Express—gave us a sneak preview of what to expect from the session, which takes place on Wednesday, March 30, from 2:00 to 3:30 pm.

Wachsstock noted that one of the key goals of the session is to understand the jurisdictional boundaries of the CFPB, other federal consumer protection agencies, and the states in regulating consumer financial markets.  She noted that how these entities collaborate going forward, and how the existence of a regulator solely focused on consumer financial protection changes the mix, will be a focus of discussion.

Another area Wachsstock anticipates delving into at the session is the role of the CFPB in maintaining market competitiveness, and addressing and preventing economic problems.  Panelists will explore, for example, how might things have been different if the CFPB had been in existence prior to the current recession?  Wachsstock noted that the underlying question is whether consumer protection principles could have prevented the current economic crisis.

Finally, the session will examine how, if at all, antitrust principles will be relevant to the work of the  CFPB.  According to Wachsstock, the consensus among the speakers seems to be that the CFPB, with its focus on consumer protection, will have little use for traditional antitrust theories, but economic analysis and general market principles will certainly play a role.  Expect a lively discussion of these important and timely issues.


Session Information: A New Paradigm, Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 2:00–3:30 pm

Presented by the Consumer Protection and Insurance & Financial Services Committees

Description: What should be expected from the newly established Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?  Will the CFPB turn to FTC jurisprudence to define “unfair and deceptive acts and practices”? Should the CFPB’s decision-making process incorporate antitrust principles and economic analysis?  Panelists will explore these issues and what enforcement role will be left to the states.           

Session Chair: William M. Katz, Jr., Thompson & Knight LLP, Dallas, TX

Moderator: Suzanne E. Wachsstock, Vice President & Chief Antitrust Counsel, American Express, New York, NY


  • Robert H. Gertner, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Chicago, IL
  • Kathrin Sears, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, California Department of Justice, San Francisco, CA
  • Peggy L. Twohig, Director, Office of Consumer Protection, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Washington, DC
  • Joel Winston, Associate Director, Division of Financial Practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC

Author: ABA Antitrust

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