Top consumer bureau official blasts colleague over blog posts dismissing racism

Top consumer bureau official blasts colleague over blog posts dismissing racism
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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 MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit On The Money: Judge rules banks can give Trump records to House | Mnuchin pegs debt ceiling deadline as 'late summer' | Democrats see momentum in Trump tax return fight | House rebukes Trump changes to consumer agency House rebukes Mulvaney's efforts to rein in consumer bureau 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.

“I no longer [have] faith that the Bureau’s obligation to enforce the fair lending laws with be faithfully discharged in the currently contemplated reorganized structure,” Ficklin wrote to agency employees.

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 John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit 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 BrownOn The Money: Judge upholds House subpoena for Trump financial records | Trump vows to appeal ruling by 'Obama-appointed judge' | Canada, Mexico lift retaliatory tariffs on US | IRS audit rate falls Lawmakers grapple with the future of America's workforce The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate MORE (Ohio) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign CEO pay rising twice as fast as worker pay: AP Senate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk 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.