After all, as the agency's Allison Brown said in kicking off the breakout sessions at SourceMedia's 3rd Annual Mortgage Regulatory Forum, an examination by the two-year-old CFPB is akin to taking an "open-book test" in high school or college.
Moreover, Brown told the conference, which was held at the Marriott Crystal City Gateway hotel across the Potomac River from the nation's capital in Northern Virginia, "We've given you the book."
And later, Amy Brachio, a partner in Ernst & Young's advisory service, said "one of the strengths of the CFPB is its transparency."
If lenders and servicers "keep up" with the bureau, said Brachio, who has more than 14 years of experience in serving diversified financial institutions in the areas of compliance risk management, "you'll have a good idea of what they are looking for in the way of compliance."
But attorney Joseph Barloon had a different take. He said the CFPB was an unusual "hybrid agency—a hydra-headed beast which is part supervisory agent, part enforcement agency and a part rule-driven agency." Furthermore, Barloon said, "each role affects the other."
The attorney, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and co-leader in the D.C. law firm's consumer financial services litigation and enforcement practice, said the concern among his clients is that the enforcement ogre will show up for examinations.
"Are they looking at this from a ‘gotcha’ mentality?" he questioned. "There's a lot of uncertainty."
The challenge for the CFPB is, is its mandate is to protect consumer choice or to protect consumers from their choices, the attorney said.
While the agency "on a broad level" is, indeed, transparent, he said, "it is very good at keeping its cards close to the vest" when it comes to investigations.
The attorney also said the CFPB's civil investigative demands have been "very broad, very burdensome." And that, he added, has come as a "shock" to his clients, who are used to more targeted examinations.
Either way, though, Barloon told the conference, "this is not your grandfather's enforcement agency and you need to keep up with it. The industry needs to pay attention. If not, many people are going to be in trouble."
Another attorney, Donald Lampe, a partner in Morrison & Foerster, compared the CFPB to a 7-11 convenience store in that it's open all the time and never closes. But he also agreed that there is much uncertainty among his clients.
"We see a lot of vitality in the mortgage market," Lampe said. "But no one is sure what kind of impact all the new rules will have."
Meanwhile, the CFPB has no intention of issuing any more guidance, at least not for the time being, according to Brian Webster, the originations program manager at the agency.
"We intend to do things a little differently," Webster told the conference. "We've already gone through extensive efforts to be better understood. So we think we can have a broader reach through conferences and forums. We're even contemplating a webinar."
Lew Sichelman is an independent journalist who has been covering the housing and mortgage markets for more than 40 years.