Mulvaney Asks Congress to Wield More Power Over CFPB

By Lydia Beyoud

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s acting director is asking Congress to rein in the agency he’s temporarily leading.

Congress should approve major CFPB rules, have power over agency appropriations, and give the president the authority to fire the agency’s director at will, Acting Director Mick Mulvaney said in a semi-annual report released April 2. He also called for an independent CFPB inspector general.

“As has been evident since the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Bureau is far too powerful, and with precious little oversight of its activities,” said Mulvaney, who also serves as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Mulvaney’s proposals largely track provisions in a broader financial regulation overhaul bill (H.R. 10), which passed the House but has met strong resistance from Senate Democrats.

“I have no doubt that many Members of Congress disagree with my actions as the Acting Director of the Bureau, just as many Members disagreed with the actions of my predecessor,” Mulvaney said in his cover letter. Enacting the proposed changes would end the regulatory tug-of-war resulting from the CFPB’s current structure and an independent directorship, Mulvaney said.

As the former South Carolina representative noted, Mulvaney’s proposals would likely face significant opposition from congressional Democrats.

“Congress established the CFPB in order to create strong regulation to protect consumers from the abusive products that ultimately destroyed trillions of dollars” and harmed millions of families, said Aaron Klein, policy director for the Center on Regulation and Markets at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Congress did not, nor should it, create an agency to simply propose regulations to itself,” he said.

Subjecting financial regulatory agencies to the congressional appropriations process would be “an invitation to weaken oversight,” Klein said in an email to Bloomberg Law.

Forthcoming Rules

The report itself examines agency actions from April 1 to Sept. 30, 2017, before President Donald Trump appointed Mulvaney to lead the bureau following the departure of Obama administration appointee Richard Cordray.

Under Mulvaney, the CFPB is engaged in a stem-to-stern review of the agency’s procedures, rules, and objectives.

That includes plans for forthcoming rulemakings, notably on the CFPB’s payday lending and high-cost installment loans, which the agency has already said it will reconsider.

The CFPB plans to release a proposed rule on debt collectors’ consumer disclosures and communications practices, likely including robocalls and robotexts. Consumer debt collection complaints were the No. 1 complaint to the agency during the year leading up to the report’s Sept. 30, 2017 focus. They accounted for approximately 27 percent of consumer complaints during that period, with credit or consumer reporting coming in at a near tie, followed by mortgage complaints at 13 percent.

The mortgage industry is also in for some potential changes. The CFPB plans to issue final rules on amending the federal mortgage disclosure requirements in the Truth in Lending Act, according to the report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at lbeyoud@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Ferullo at mferullo@bloomberglaw.com

For More Information

Text of the report is at http://src.bna.com/xwm.

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