By Lydia Beyoud
Acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Mick Mulvaney is looking to add more political appointees to the agency’s ranks in the near future, pairing them with senior civil servants in areas such as supervision, regulations, and enforcement.
That structure is the traditional model for agencies like the Office of Management and Budget, where Mulvaney is also permanent director, and one that Mulvaney said he believes would work well at the CFPB. Mulvaney has long been a critic of the six-year-old agency and its leadership structure, endowed with a single director rather than a commission.
“Maybe they didn’t think they needed to have any political people here because a lot of the people here were political anyway, even though they’re professional,” Mulvaney said during a press briefing Dec. 4, referring to career staff.
Mulvaney has already brought in Brian Johnson, a former aide to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), to be a senior aide at the bureau.
Once his political staff is in place to handle day-to-day matters, Mulvaney said he would “get down to the weeds on something I enjoy, which is the budget.”
That review would include the agency’s structure, funding, and staffing, he said. “But that will be a couple of weeks before I have a chance to talk about that at an appropriate time,” Mulvaney added.
The CFPB is funded through the Federal Reserve System, rather than congressional appropriations. Each fiscal quarter the Federal Reserve transfers funds formally requested by the agency’s director. Republican lawmakers dislike that structure and have repeatedly introduced legislation (S. 387) to allow Congress to control the CFPB’s purse strings.
Mulvaney said he plans to be at the CFPB for five to seven months, until President Donald Trump can nominate and the Senate can confirm a permanent director.
Mulvaney said he has modified the initial 30-day hard freeze on new CFPB enforcement actions he announced Nov. 27 during his first day at the bureau.
Some actions will move forward while others remain on hold as Mulvaney’s team gets more details on each case, depending on what stage they are in. “That is going to be part of the longest transition process here,” Mulvaney said.
The agency has approximately 100 cases divided into three general categories: investigations, “settle or sue” decision-making, and litigation.
“I’m looking at each of those on an individual basis, so it’s going to take a while to sort of get through all of those,” Mulvaney said.
The agency’s collection of lending data that can be traced back to specific individuals or companies remains on hold, pending improvements to the CFPB’s data security, Mulvaney said.
“I think we should find a way to have as vigorous a data security program as we possibly can here, before we start expecting it from the people we oversee out in the industry,” he said.
General statistical data collection on loans, such as volume and dollar amount may continue, but staff will not collect more detailed information “until we have the data security issue buttoned down” to the satisfaction of the CFPB’s inspector general.
The IG’s Oct. 31 report made seven recommendations for improving information security, though it said the system was operating at “consistently implemented” or higher security levels in many categories.
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