Thomas Pahl

Yesterday Jessica Rich, the Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection announced to the staff of the agency her resignation.  Her last day in the office will be Friday, February 17th. Today, acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen named Tom Pahl as the acting Director, replacing Jessica Rich.

Pahl has been a partner with the D.C. law firm Arnall Golden Gregory since the fall of 2016, following his summer departure from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While at the CFPB, he was Managing Counsel, responsible for leading the rulemaking, policy development and regulatory guidance activity related to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Dodd-Frank Act and other regulatory requirements.

Prior to joining the CFPB, Pahl was Assistant Director for the Division of Financial Practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC. While at the FTC Pahl managed the division responsible for law enforcement, rulemaking and policy development activities related to financial services, including debt collection, payday lending, mortgage lending and debt relief services.

insideARM Perspective

In recent weeks Tom Pahl has written a series of blog posts for both insideARM and The Hill, including:

The tortoise, not the hare, will win the deregulation race 2/2/17

Collector contact caps and the application of “regulatory humility” 1/30/17

Trump’s wise choice for the FTC 1/26/17

How Washington will decide the consumer watchdog’s fate 1/26/17

The CFPB and the FTC should divide up debt collection enforcement 1/9/17

The CFPB is a sleeping giant on data security. Let’s not wake it 12/28/16

Consumer financial protection will remain alive under Trump 12/16/16

In his December 28 article on data security, Pahl may offer a window into his focus in his new role. He states,

Whether by design or default, keeping the FTC (not the CFPB) in the lead on data security makes sense. The FTC has substantial data security expertise through many years of enforcement, rulemaking and policy development work, which is critical given the complexity of many data security matters.

When new leadership appointed by Donald Trump arrives at the CFPB, I anticipate they will change the CFPB’s priorities and agenda in many ways. However, the new leaders should not change the CFPB’s somnolent role on data security.

To anyone who has been paying attention, it will come as no surprise that data security will be a major area of regulatory focus in 2017 and beyond, not only at the federal level, but among states as well, as evidenced by recent activity in New York.

In his January 9 article he suggests that the CFPB and FTC should divide debt collection enforcement:

With more than five years of experience, the time is ripe for the FTC and the CFPB to consider revising their MOU to include a substantive division of enforcement responsibilities where they have concurrent authority.  One proposal would be to allocate agency enforcement more clearly in markets for which the CFPB has defined by rule larger participants.  The CFPB would have primary enforcement responsibility for larger participants in these markets, while the FTC would have primary enforcement responsibility for everyone else. 

Finally, in his February 2 article on deregulation, he offers advice to industry,

President Trump’s appointees undoubtedly will move as quickly as they can, and they are going to need help. Industry can assist in identifying rules that are the most important to change. Think tanks, academics, and others can do the same. Even other agencies can help pare back regulations. The FTC, for example, has a long-standing advocacy program (and one that is likely to remain very active under acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen) that files public comments to assist other agencies in understanding how proposed changes in their rules affect consumers and competition.

This appointment may offer an fresh opportunity to industry groups to make their case, at least to the FTC.

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