An effort to rebrand and rename the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is officially dead.
In one of her first moves since taking charge of the agency earlier this month, Director Kathy Kraninger has spiked an initiative spearheaded by her immediate predecessor to call it the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, a subtle change that was nevertheless symbolic of efforts to recast its role, purpose, and priorities.
“I care much more about what we do than what we are called,” Kraninger wrote in an internal—and promptly leaked—memo. Effective Dec. 17, she “officially halted all ongoing efforts to make changes to existing products and materials related to the name correction initiative.”
“For statutorily required reports, legal findings, and other items specific to the Office of the Director, we will use the Bureau seal and the statutory name we were given in [the Dodd-Frank Act],” she added. “The name ‘Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’ and the existing CFPB logo will continue to be used for all other materials.”
Kraninger went on to elucidate staffers on the finer points of nicknames. “In other words, we have a legal name, but I will be using our colloquial name and the branded acronym ‘CFPB.’ Many of us have legal names but use nicknames without too much confusion. My birth certificate says Kathleen, but I answer to Kathy. I think we can do the same here,” she wrote.
Still not clear? Official agency guidance on the use of the Bureau’s name and seal is forthcoming.
It was with an April press release (categorized under the topic “Bureau milestones”) that then-Acting Director Mick Mulvaney announced the name change and a new seal to reflect that rebranding.
Critics positioned the change as another way that Mulvaney sought to symbolically send a message that the Bureau would be recast as a more business-friendly agency under his watch. He refuted those allegations by pointing out that the change restored the original name of the Bureau when it was legislatively created under the Dodd-Frank Act.
In any event, the name change failed to gain traction. Most journalists stuck with the longstanding CFPB moniker; even the Bureau’s own Website and headquarters signage remained as it was.
Kraninger’s retreat from Mulvaney’s renaming initiative came the same day that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), an original architect, criticized the effort as “wasteful and harmful.”
In a letter to Mark Bialek, the inspector general of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the CFPB, Warren cited reports that the name change would cost the agency up to $19 million and $300 million in costs for banks and other Bureau-supervised entities.
“The failure to justify the name change, combined with the failure to follow basic procedural rules, the wasteful expenditures, and the confusing implementation suggest a serious breakdown in the policy-making process at the CFPB,” Warren wrote.
She expressed concerns that the CFPB “did not take the appropriate steps to change its name,” including formally amending several rules it enforces using the process required by the Administrative Procedures Act and following Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act procedures.
Warren also claimed the name change could confuse consumers, “preventing them from filing complaints or seeking help.” As of Dec. 17, the CFPB appears to be using both names, she wrote.
“In that environment, a consumer would be hard-pressed to know whether a remediation check they receive with the old CFPB seal is a scam or whether they have the right number if they call the complaint hotline and an operator from the BCFP answers the phone,” she added in her letter.
“Mick Mulvaney’s silly, wasteful, and confusing fight to change the CFPB’s name was little more than a petty ploy to undermine the Bureau’s hard-won reputation as a champion for consumers,” says Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, a consumer advocacy group. “Kraninger was right to fix Mulvaney’s name change disaster” by “reversing Mulvaney’s other changes at the Bureau that have stacked the deck against consumers.”