Like other federal regulators, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is supposed to give regular updates to Congress on the work it has done to fulfill its statutory mandate. Under Mick Mulvaney, the consumer watchdog has used its just-released semiannual report for a very different purpose: to urge Congress to take away its power to fulfill that mandate.
The report proposes, among other things, that the Consumer Bureau lose its independent funding and become dependent on annual congressional appropriations. (In other words, it would have to plead for money with strings attached from lawmakers who, like Mulvaney himself during his years in Congress, may have accepted massive campaign contributions from payday and other financial-industry interests.) Mulvaney also wants to require specific congressional approval of every major rule — unlike rules issued by other bank regulators — and he would give the President direct authority over the agency’s permanent Director. These moves would destroy the agency as an effective independent force standing up for the public interest.
The Bureau in its current form cracked down on abusive practices, won close to 12 billion dollars in restitution for borrowers harmed by financial industry rip offs, and was making piece after piece of the market fairer and more transparent. That is exactly the record of accomplishment on behalf of everyday Americans that Mulvaney wants to stop. Every one of these moves would weaken the agency and diminish its authority and political independence.
“Mulvaney should stick to what Congress directed this agency to do — protect consumers — and stop pushing legislation that he supported as a Congressman to gut the Consumer Bureau,” said Lauren Saunders, associate director for the National Consumer Law Center.
“To summarize Mick Mulvaney’s message to Congress,” added Mike Litt, consumer campaign director for U.S. PIRG. “Let’s take away the Consumer Bureau’s independence and then make it harder for it to do its job.”
The Consumer Bureau, created in the aftermath of the economic meltdown that brought America to its knees 10 years ago, is dedicated to protecting consumers against fraud and abuse. In its mandate, Congress specified that the Consumer Bureau be independent, both in its governance and in its funding (just as other financial regulators are), in order to keep it strong and less subject to big-money lobbying of Congress. Now Mulvaney & Co. are calling for changes that would make the CFPB a tool of the Wall Street financial lobby for years to come.
Their proposals reflect Mulvaney’s — and the White House’s — utter disregard for the interests of the ordinary Americans who have been cheated by big banks and predatory lenders over the years. They also reflect a radical agenda that Mulvaney has no business trying to impose in his capacity as an interim head whose legitimacy is still being contested in court, and who has not been confirmed by the Senate.
“Mick Mulvaney is using his temporary status to push a radical agenda to destroy the consumer bureau precisely because it has the independence to stand up to powerful financial interests, and to do its job protecting the public, said José Alcoff, Payday Campaign Manager at Americans for Financial Reform. Mulvaney wants the CFPB to be a lapdog, not a watchdog.”