Tom Pahl Returns to CFPB, Will Oversee Debt Collection Rulemaking at Critical Juncture

Tom Pahl has had the opportunity to make the regulatory rounds in recent years, uniquely preparing him for this moment. On Monday he returns to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as Policy Associate Director for Research, Markets & Regulations (RMR). He will report directly to Acting Director Mick Mulvaney. 

A longtime regulator, Pahl served at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in a number of different roles from 1998-2013, when he was recruited to the CFPB to work on a debt collection rule.

Following the release of the Outline of Proposals Under Consideration in advance of the Small Business Review Panel (SBREFA) for Debt Collector and Debt Buyer Rulemaking, he left the CFPB in August 2016 and worked briefly as a partner at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP.

In February 2017 Acting Federal Trade Commission Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, a Trump appointee and advocate of “regulatory humility,” named Pahl Acting Director FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection. Earlier this year, President Trump announced that he had nominated Ohlhausen to be a judge on the United States Court of Federal Claims, which meant that Pahl would likely be replaced by someone chosen by an incoming FTC Chairman.

Following his first departure from the CFPB, we had the opportunity to learn about Pahl’s positions on matters related to the ARM industry. insideARM and The Hill previously published these articles which he authored:

Why States Should Have Primary Oversight of Attorney’s Activities in Debt-Collection Litigation 12/14/17

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

The CFPB Should Not Single-Out Collectors for Non-English Disclosure Requirements 12/13/16

Notably, about collector contact caps, Pahl said in January 2017,

“Collector contact caps are a prime candidate for the application of regulatory humility. …courts have decided Section 806(5) cases for nearly 40 years on the issue of if collector telephone calling behavior has been made with the intent to annoy, harass, or abuse. Courts in these cases have not been able to articulate a bright line standard for calling behavior.”

Unlike Pahl’s previous CFPB job as a career staffer, this latest job is a political post. In most federal agencies the top person, a political appointee, has a handful of positions available to bring in his or her own senior team. The Federal Trade Commission, for example, has nine such slots. The CFPB had none. Acting Director Mulvaney has created such positions and has hired individuals for those roles, including Kirsten Sutton as Chief of Staff, Brian Johnson as Senior Advisor, and most recently, Pahl.

Acting Director Mulvaney has said he views debt collection rulemaking as a priority. Given Pahl’s many years of deep experience in this arena, we could expect him to be up to speed extremely quickly and help to make this priority a reality.