New Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Kathleen L. Kraninger testified Thursday morning before the House Financial Services Committee, answering pointed questions from Democratic and Republican politicians concerning the oversight of the agency.
In a hearing titled “Putting Consumers First? A Semi-Annual Review of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” Democratic members of Congress led by committee chairwoman Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) pressed Director Kraninger on the CFPB’s recent decision concerning the rescinding of a rule proposal concerning small dollar payday lending.
In a tense opening exchange between Kraninger and Waters, the chairwoman asked the Director if she had instituted any new investigations into fair lending. Kraninger indicated that there were several investigations that were ongoing, but that the decision to institute an enforcement action ultimately comes down to the enforcement attorneys employed by the Bureau.
“So, you have not actually instituted any new enforcement actions in fair lending,” Waters replied. “Do you believe there’s a need to restore the office of fair lending’s supervisory powers?”
Kraninger related that she believes the general framework in overseeing fair lending practices has been strengthened by her predecessor’s actions in stripping the agency’s fair-lending office of enforcement powers in February of 2018.
Waters and other Democrats including Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Nydia Velázquez and Gregory Meeks pressed Kraninger on other issues related to issues like overdraft fees, reported issues of morale within the agency and sustained criticism related to the rescinding of the payday loan rule proposal.
Committee Republicans including ranking member Rep. Patrick McHenry and Representatives Ann Wagner and Bill Posey praised Kraninger’s tenure in leadership of the agency while criticizing the perceived unfettered authority of the Bureau itself.
Kraninger repeatedly emphasized key aspects of her leadership philosophy at the CFPB, including a desire to focus on the clearly bad actors in the financial sector who “have no intention of complying” with rules, regulations and enforcement actions that the Bureau will focus on under her leadership.
She also repeatedly spoke to how impressed she is with CFPB staff, particularly as she concludes a “listening tour” that included visiting several CFPB field offices as well as a discussion with her Obama-era predecessor Richard Cordray. Among her desires to enhance operational efficiencies, Kraninger related a wish to streamline them so that staffers can continue to focus on their duties at the CFPB as opposed to bureaucratic or operational concerns.
Ultimately, it was clear that Waters intends to undo work undertaken primarily by Kraninger’s predecessor Mick Mulvaney, whom she views as having damaged the enforcement capabilities of the agency at-large, while Republicans remain committed to reigning in the agency as much as they feel necessary, though they expressed encouragement and support of Kraninger’s leadership.