Acting CFPB Director Promises Change

Writing in the first semi-annual report to Congress issued under his leadership, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau acting director Mick Mulvaney continued to lay out his vision for a leaner, more hands-off agency.

“Congress enumerated nine elements for inclusion in the bureau’s semi-annual reports to Congress,” Mulvaney wrote. “This semi-annual report precisely meets this mandate.”

Clocking in at just 56 pages, the report lays out lists of various initiatives the CFPB completed or will be exploring in the coming year, along with data about consumer complaints; mortgage-related issues accounted for 13% of issues reported in fiscal 2017, good for third place behind debt collection and credit or consumer reporting.

Mulvaney’s first report pales in comparison to the final one issued under the stewardship of former director Richard Cordray, which spanned 179 pages and included far more in-depth analysis of the bureau’s activities over the previous six months.

“Through fair rules, consistent oversight, appropriate enforcement of the law, and broad-based consumer engagement, the Bureau is helping restore American families’ trust in consumer financial markets,” Cordray wrote in the introduction to that report, released last June.

The current acting director, meanwhile, blasted his own department in his first report at the helm.

“As has been evident since the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act, the bureau is far too powerful, and with precious little oversight of its activities,” Mulvaney wrote, going on to decry the director’s role as “a one-man legislature” and “an appellate judge presiding over the bureau’s in-house court-like adjudications.”

Mulvaney called on Congress to make four key changes to the CFPB’s structure:

  • Make the bureau’s funding subject to Congressional     appropriations

  • Subject rulemaking to legislative approval

  • “Ensure that the director answers to the president in     the exercise of executive authority”

  • Establish an independent inspector general position to     oversee the bureau

That third bullet most likely refers to the palace intrigue that has befallen the agency in recent months, with deputy director Leandra English waging a battle to take over Mulvaney’s spot. The question revolves around the as-yet-untested constitutional issue over whether the president can appoint an acting director, or if the deputy assumes the role after a resignation.

Cordray left the CFPB last year in order to pursue the Democratic nomination for Ohio governor; President Trump appointed Mulvaney over the objections of English and multiple prominent Democrats. The D.C. Circuit will hear an appeal in her ongoing legal battle against the administration on April 12.

In the meantime, Mulvaney again had a chance to steer the bureau in his preferred direction.

“The best that any bureau director can do on his own is to fulfill his responsibilities with humility and prudence, and to temper his decisions with the knowledge that the power he wields could all too easily be used to harm consumers, destroy businesses, or arbitrarily remake American financial markets,” he wrote.

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