Acting consumer bureau chief declares 'new mission' in rebuke of predecessor

Acting consumer bureau chief declares 'new mission' in rebuke of predecessor
© Greg Nash

The acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) told employees that the agency’s days of routine, aggressive regulatory and enforcement action “are over.”

Acting CFPB Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump golfs with Graham, Gowdy and Mulvaney as White House awaits Mueller findings White House rejects Dem request for documents on Trump-Putin communications Consumer bureau chief reverses efforts to sideline advisory panels MORE declared “a new mission” for the bureau in a Tuesday memo to agency staff, first reported by ProPublica and confirmed by The Hill.

The two-page email to CFPB employees is a direct rebuke of Mulvaney’s predecessor, Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordraySherrod Brown says he will not run for president CFPB confusing 'freedom of choice' with 'freedom to be fleeced' Consumer bureau chief to face lawmakers for first time since confirmation MORE, and his stated goal to “push the envelope” on financial sector oversight.

Mulvaney, who also serves as the White House budget chief and sought to eliminate the CFPB as a GOP congressman, said Cordray’s mentality “frightens me a little” and insisted he’d reorient the bureau toward enforcing and not creating laws.

“The law mandates that we enforce consumer protection laws, and we will continue to do exactly that under my watch,” wrote Mulvaney, explaining he pledged not to shut down the bureau because “the law doesn’t allow that.”

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"The days of aggressively 'pushing the envelope' of the law in the name of 'mission' are over," Mulvaney wrote. 

Mulvaney said that pushing the limit on how aggressively the government can penalize banks, lenders, credit card companies and other financial firms could be devastating for average Americans.

“We don’t just work for the government, we work for the people,” wrote Mulvaney. “Those who use credit cards, and those who provide those cards; those who take loans, and those who make them; those who buy cars, and those who sell them.”

Mulvaney warned that cracking down on a company too harshly could trigger “damage” that “could linger for years,” costing employees their jobs, savings and homes.

He said while there will “absolutely be times” when the bureau must “take dramatic action” against a company, it should only be “the last, most final resort.”

The acting director said the bureau would re-evaluate every aspect of its regulatory and supervisory functions from investigative procedures to which issues rulemakers must prioritize.

Mulvaney announced last week the CFPB would issue a series of requests for public comment on aspects of how it writes regulations and handles enforcement actions, starting with the subpoena process it uses during investigations. He also said the bureau would open for reconsideration its November 2017 rule on payday loans meant to curb cyclical debt.

Mulvaney said that future CFPB rulemaking would be driven by the complaints it receives, questioning Cordray’s priorities as director. He said that in 2016, roughly a third of all complaints to the CFPB were about debt collection, while only 0.9 percent and 2 percent were about payday lending and prepaid cards, respectively. The two topics were subjects of controversial CFPB rules.

The memo is Mulvaney’s latest effort to chart a new course for the CFPB. Democrats and progressive nonprofits that were aligned with Cordray have protested Mulvaney’s leadership and supported the legal challenge to his appointment from Leandra English, the bureau’s deputy director.

Cordray blasted Mulvaney's attempts to unwind the payday lending rule as “truly shameful action by the interim pseudo-leaders” of the CFPB.

“Let’s see the case be made, with full debate, on whether the zealots and toadies can justify repealing a rule to protect consumers against extortionate payday loans,” Cordray said.