The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) official in charge of fair lending is pulling her support for a top agency aide over blog posts he wrote that dismissed hate crimes and used racial slurs.
Patrice Ficklin, director of the CFPB’s fair lending office, wrote in an email to agency employees obtained by The Hill that she has asked the agency’s acting director Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE to halt a reorganization of her office due to the posts.
Ficklin called for Mulvaney to ditch a planned bureau structure change that would give policy director Eric Blankenstein control of lending discrimination cases after she said she read Blankenstein's “deeply disturbing and offensive” writings from 2004.
Her email was first obtained by American Banker.
The CFPB was established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act to police banks and financial services firms for abusive and discriminatory practices. Mulvaney has sought to pull back the CFPB’s oversight and enforcement activities, which Republicans and the industry have long called overbearing and tyrannical.
Mulvaney in February sought to strip Ficklin’s office of its enforcement powers and shift them to an office under the director’s oversight, controlled by Blankenstein. Ficklin and Blankestein have shared responsibility over fair lending cases while the move has been held up due to an issue raised by the CFPB union.
Blankenstein, the CFPB policy director for supervision, was hired by Mulvaney to align the bureau with President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE’s deregulatory agenda. He wrote in anonymous blog posts reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday that most hate crimes were hoaxes and downplayed the racial implications of using the n-word.
Blankenstein told The Post that he had written the anonymous screeds but said that they had no role in his work at the CFPB. He said that “reading snippets of 14 year old blog posts that have nothing to do with consumer protection law” was “a naked exercise in bad faith, and represents another nail in the coffin of civil discourse.”
Ficklin initially gave a statement supporting Blankenstein to The Post, but told CFPB employees in her email Friday that she had offered the support before reading his past writings. She said that she no longer supported his involvement in discrimination cases and raised questions about his ability to handle such matters fairly.
Ficklin, a CFPB veteran of the Obama administration, said Friday that Blankenstein had been “collegial, thoughtful and meticulous,” but called previous exchanges over racial discrimination “now quite alarming in light of the content of his blog posts.”
She wrote that those “experiences … call into question Eric’s ability and intent to carry out his and his Acting Director’s repeated yet unsubstantiated commitment to a continued strong fair lending program under governing legal precedent.”
The blow-up over Blankenstein’s writings is the latest chapter in the battle between Obama administration veterans and Trump-era hires with competing agendas for the consumer bureau.
Democratic Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownAdvocates call on top Democrats for 0B in housing investments Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees Wyden releases new tax proposals as Democrats work on .5T bill MORE (Ohio) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFederal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (Mass.), who have vocally criticized Mulvaney’s efforts to rein in the CFPB, have called for Blankenstein to be fired.
The CFPB did not respond to a request for comment Friday night.
The Post also reported Friday that Ficklin's email incited an “open rebellion” at the CFPB, pitting long-time bureau officials against Mulvaney’s top aides.
Mulvaney’s chief of staff, Kirsten Sutton Mork, reportedly asked Ficklin to speak with her before sending her email, a request she apparently declined, according to the newspaper.
Ficklin received an outpouring of supportive responses to the email, according to The Post, including from all 17 employees of the office of fair lending.