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 MulvaneyConservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Pelosi, Mnuchin reach 'near-final agreement' on budget, debt ceiling This week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill 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 Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota 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 BrownThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses MORE (Ohio) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Warren introduces bill to cancel student loan debt for millions Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission 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.