I am all for transparency. In most cases I think it’s really important — for consumers, for employers, for relationships. So many spend so much unproductive time and effort trying to guess what others are thinking or planning. If we knew honestly where people stood, we could respond with the appropriate level of…well, response.
But in the case of a nearly unanimous vote in the U.S. House of Representatives this week on HR 1265, I wonder whether the intended result will occur.
The bill, in effect, forces advisory council meetings at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to be completely open to the public. It was uncontroversial because it simply applies an existing law, the Federal Advisory Committee Act, to advisory committees within the CFPB.
As the publisher of an industry newsletter, I have lamented that press were only privy to the “open” portion of these meetings. We learned quickly that we weren’t going to learn much at these sessions. They are almost anything but candid, and largely scripted for the official record.
I wonder, though, whether those on the Council who represent companies in the industry will be loath to say anything publicly that might not be pre-approved by their organization. Sometimes in order to get truly candid advice, you need to provide a safe space for advisors to do so. Without it, my guess is that advisors will hold their tongue. And this applies not only to private companies, but would also impact representatives from consumer advocacy groups and from government.
In the case of the CFPB, these meetings may now be open, but an unintended consequence is that they may not be so useful anymore to anyone who is listening.
Stephanie Eidelman is the CEO and Publisher of insideARM.com.