Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has sent a letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Leandra English, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau expressing concern about Mulvaney's decision to freeze the collection of consumer data by the CFPB.
On Dec. 4, citing concerns by the Inspector General on the CFPB's information security controls, Mulvaney announced that he was freezing the collection of all personal information by the CFPB. On the morning of this announcement, examiners at the CFPB were directed to stop requesting any information from regulated entities. According to reports, enforcement lawyers may have also been banned from reviewing any new electronic evidence obtained in discovery.
In her letter, Warren raised concerns about the impact of the data collection freeze on the agency's core functions. "The CFPB cannot fulfill its core functions without collecting personally identifiable information," she wrote. "Given how integral this data is to these basic CFPB functions, I fear that the freeze in data collection has in practice fundamentally changed how the Bureau interacts with its regulated entities."
Warren also expressed concern about the justification for shutting down data collection, highlighting the discrepancy between the modest risks cited in recent reports by the agency's IG and the actions taken by Mulvaney in response. The one report issued by the IG said that the CFPB outperformed nearly all other financial regulators on the quality of its cyber-security practices and pointed out that the Bureau had already implemented most of the recommendations made in another recent cyber-security report. The IG did not recommend freezing data collection in either of its reports.
"This fact pattern indicates actions taken by Director Mulvaney were not necessary to address cybersecurity problems at the CFPB," Warren wrote. "Instead, Director Mulvaney's actions appear to be aimed at hobbling the agency by inappropriately using the IG reports as a pretext."
In the letter, she asked for additional information on how the data collection freeze has impacted the CFPB's operations and requested that her staff be briefed on the topic.