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CFPB Seeks Public Input on its Mission Amid Director Drama

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will solicit wide-ranging commentary on its mission from the public and companies, the agency’s acting director announced Wednesday.

“In this New Year, and under new leadership, it is natural for the Bureau to critically examine its policies and practices to ensure they align with the Bureau’s statutory mandate. Moving forward, the Bureau will consistently seek out constructive feedback and welcome ideas for improvement,” Mick Mulvaney, who was named acting director by President Trump after the resignation of Richard Cordray in November, said.

Specifically, the CFPB plans to publish multiple Requests for Information (RFIs) in the Federal Register, which will ask for comments from the public on “enforcement, supervision, rulemaking, market monitoring, and education activities.” The bureau will start with a request for commentary on Civil Investigative Demands, a type of records request analogous to a subpoena, which the CFPB can issue during the course of investigations.

Mulvaney and the CFPB framed this push as a way to improve outcomes for both consumers and the institutions that fall under the bureau’s purview.

“Much can be done to facilitate greater consumer choice and efficient markets, while vigorously enforcing consumer financial law in a way that guarantees due process,” Mulvaney said in a statement announcing the new initiative. “I look forward to receiving public comments in response to this call for evidence and encourage all interested parties to participate.”

Shortly before Cordray’s departure, the CFPB released a report cautioning consumers against using the reverse mortgage to delay Social Security benefits, a document that stirred passionate disputes from members of the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage industry.

Drama ongoing at the top

Despite Mulvaney’s name appearing in releases on official CFPB letterhead, the drama over his role atop the bureau remains the subject of litigation.

Back in November, just before Cordray stepped down to pursue the Democratic nomination for Ohio governor, the outgoing director named Leandra English as his deputy director. The Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB upon its passage in 2010, specifies that the deputy can serve in the “absence or unavailability” of the director, leading English’s supporters to claim that she was the rightful heir to the throne.

But President Trump cited the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, which allows the president to replace the heads of vacant agencies on an interim or acting basis. His pick was Mulvaney, the White House budget director and a longtime CFPB opponent who called the bureau a “sick, sad joke” and indicated that he didn’t think it should exist.

Despite rulings in Mulvaney’s favor, the fight over the CFPB director’s chair has raged on, with English this week filing an emergency motion in federal court to speed up her appeal process. The ongoing tussle, English said, casts “a pall over the validity of the agency’s actions, since actions taken by an illegally appointed director may themselves be unlawful,” according to law firm Ballard Spahr’s Consumer Finance Monitor blog.

English, who has received multiple amicus briefs supporting her position and public boosts from the architects of Dodd-Frank, wants briefings on the matter to wrap up sometime next month, the blog noted.

Written by Alex Spanko