It must surely be a source of ongoing annoyance that Mick Mulvaney, the Trump administration’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, can’t successfully rename the other agency he heads.
Mulvaney wants it to be known that he serves as acting director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, a rebranded Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The sign outside the Bureau’s Washington headquarters may reflect the change, but most who follow its efforts, including journalists and consumer activists, are sticking by the old nomenclature. An effort to get the Associated Press to modify references to the Bureau in its much-consulted stylebook, for example, was met with deaf ears. The Bureau’s own website similarly clings to both its CFPB.gov URL and prominent references to the CFPB name.
The name change, critics say, is in keeping with the pro-business, deregulatory approach of its acting director in that it downplays the “consumer” part of the Bureau’s mission. That political shift is at the core of a report issued this week by Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee.
The report, made public by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), is titled, “Pushing the Envelope: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Under the Trump Administration.”
In Brown’s words, it “details how Mulvaney has undermined the Bureau’s mission to enforce consumer protections in order to push the financial industry’s wish list.”
The CFPB “was a great success during its first six years” and obtained almost $12 billion in relief for working families “while protecting consumers from a host of unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices, including predatory payday lenders, scam debt collectors, and illegal loans that target servicemembers,” he added in a statement. “Working families and seniors are suffering while Mulvaney does favors for corporate special interests.”
Among the touted statistics, prior to Mulvaney’s arrival, the CFPB reclaimed more than $400 million for consumers through its fair lending activities alone. Under Mulvaney, that amount: $0.
“During its first six years on the job, the Bureau stood up for working families, obtaining almost $12 billion in relief for more than 29 million Americans, handling more than 1.2 million consumer complaints, and putting rules in place to make mortgages safer and fairer for homeowners,” the report says. “It held Wells Fargo accountable for the bank’s egregious fake-accounts scandal. It brought landmark fair lending cases to stop redlining and other discriminatory practices.”
“Since taking control of the CFPB last year, Mulvaney has undermined the CFPB’s important mission and turned an organization meant to stand on the side of the American people into yet another outlet for the financial industry to push its agenda,” the report adds. “A close examination of [his] record shows that he has undercut the Bureau, kept Congress and the public in the dark, and put his thumb on the scale in industry’s favor.
“Undercutting the Bureau. Mr. Mulvaney is dismantling the agency from the inside, hiring a group of political cronies and paying them enormous salaries to run the agency into the ground. While he has repeatedly claimed that he is simply doing what the law requires, contending he will ‘execute the statutory mandate of the bureau to protect consumers’ and ‘go no further,’ a closer look shows that Mr. Mulvaney has cherry-picked the law to promote his ideological agenda and do favors for special interests.”
The Senate report cites various examples to make its case, among them:
- Leaving servicemembers and other borrowers to fend for themselves by stripping the Bureau’s fair lending office of its enforcement powers.
- Dissolving the office tasked with overseeing the $1.5 trillion student loan market.
- Politicizing the Bureau “by installing hand-picked cronies to second guess dedicated career professionals and bringing key offices directly under his control, all while doing the bidding of the White House.”
- Enlisting other branches of government to undermine the CFPB’s mission, do favors for special interests, and evade the Administrative Procedure Act, moves exemplified by efforts to recruit other branches of government to block the CFPB’s endangered payday lending rules.
- Ignoring consumer concerns in required reports while appropriating the CFPB’s Semi-Annual Report “as a platform to promote his legislative proposals to diminish the CFPB.”
- Refusing to respond to congressional requests for information.
- Threatening to shut down public access to the consumer complaints database, a move that “would eliminate an important source of public information about consumer abuses and limit the public’s ability to hold the CFPB accountable for enforcing the law.”
“Mulvaney’s actions undermine the CFPB’s mission and damage the reputation of the agency he is charged to lead,” the report concludes, citing “the appearance that [he] is sweeping consumer harms under the rug.”
The Senate report also speculates that Kathy Kraninger, President Trump’s pick to succeed Mulvaney, “is standing ready to be a rubber stamp of his disastrous policies.” Brown added of the still-delayed succession plan and Senate confirmation: “President Trump should nominate a serious candidate, with real consumer protection experience and a genuine commitment to the Bureau’s mission, to lead the CFPB.”