Five questions with Bill Himpler, executive V.P., American Financial Services Association
Bill Himpler and his federal government relations team have enhanced AFSA’s presence in the political debate, affecting a number of issues that impact member companies’ ability to offer affordable credit options to American consumers. He has been called on to testify on behalf of the consumer credit industry and AFSA members in congressional hearings. He has also served as an industry spokesman on numerous topics.
Himpler joined AFSA in 2004, after heading congressional relations for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Score is grateful that he made time to share his insights on the ever-changing scene on Capitol Hill.
What do you see as the top two or three issues that AFSA members should expect to change under the new president?
November’s election changed many game plans in Washington, D.C. With respect to AFSA, President Trump’s election allowed us to switch from defense to offense, from protecting and defending access to credit, to actively expanding it to more Americans. However, just like the unexpected election results, it is a bit difficult to forecast what changes to expect. I think we are realistically going to see a change at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), either in structure or manner of operation. We are also likely to see some concrete changes to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. Finally, I think we will see—and we are already seeing this to a certain extent—a reduction in duplicative and burdensome regulations overall, making it easier for lenders to offer the credit that Americans need.
What are the top legislative issues AFSA is pursuing in 2017?
AFSA has some key legislative priorities listed on our website. However, the foremost priority for us is CFPB reform. Congress should move to reform the CFPB to improve its accountability and transparency. The bureau should be placed under a bipartisan commission with an annual budget subject to the congressional appropriations process and oversight. Many members of Congress have voiced their support for these changes, especially Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chair of the House Financial Services committee. His updated CHOICE Act would be a great move for financial services and the country as a whole.
New administrations typically use their first 100 days to jump-start their agendas. Do you see President Trump’s policies as generally hospitable to the financial-services industry? Why or why not?
Generally yes, and we are looking forward to working with members of the new administration and Congress to expand access to credit. Of particular note is Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who has indicated in interviews and during his confirmation hearings that he views expanding access to lending and CFPB reform as top priorities. It is important to note, however, that we have found that the majority of policymakers in Washington, D.C., regardless of party affiliation, see the important value that financial services companies bring to ordinary Americans.
There are strong expectations in Washington that Congress and the administration will be curtailing or even eliminating regulations imposed under Dodd-Frank. How are you advising AFSA members to prepare for that likelihood?
Let’s be clear—there are portions of Dodd-Frank that are important. However, many of those regulations overlap with existing regulations or duplicate protections that already exist at the state level. We have long argued that some curtailing and elimination of regulations is an important step to ensuring the continued success of the American economy. If there is a silver lining to these burdensome and duplicative regulations, it is a renewed focus on compliance at many companies. We are telling companies to continue—good compliance leads to more informed customers, and this is a great thing.
The AFSA State Government Affairs Committee recently concluded its annual meeting. What were the hottest topics of discussion for AFSA members working with state government?
At Himpler’s request, this answer was provided by Danielle Fagre Arlowe, senior vice president, AFSA State Government Affairs:
AFSA has one of the most active state government affairs departments in Washington and we’re very proud of that. Our meetings are always full of content and discussions and last week’s was no different. There were a whole host of hot topics, but some of the highlights included rate caps, collections, fintech, data breach, federalism, mandatory credit reporting, reverse mortgages, lessons from state exams and litigation, elder abuse and ancillary products.