March 28, 2018

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed: Republicans Remain Silent as Mulvaney's CFPB Ducks Oversight

The acting director has undermined the bureau's work defending the public.

From the moment Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Republican critics ranted about the CFPB's supposed lack of accountability. Now that one of those critics, Mick Mulvaney, has assumed control of the bureau, the attackers have fallen silent-even as Mr. Mulvaney disregards legal mandates and dodges congressional oversight. This turnabout shows Republicans never really cared about accountability. They only wanted the agency to be less effective at stopping financial firms from cheating people.

Congress designed the CFPB to be the government's most accountable bank regulator and created strict guidelines for its mission and operations. Every bank regulator is funded outside the regular appropriations process, but the CFPB has unique additional checks. The bureau is legally required to report to Congress twice a year on its activities, and its director must testify before Congress four times each year. The CFPB's rules can be overruled by the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a veto that applies to no other federal agency.

Since Mr. Mulvaney took control, he has ignored congressional mandates, turning the CFPB into the politicized rogue agency he accused it of being before. Example: The law requires the CFPB to create an Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity, which "shall have such powers and duties . . . including providing oversight and enforcement of Federal laws" against discrimination in lending. That language is unambiguous, but Mr. Mulvaney, long an opponent of the office's work, summarily stripped it of oversight and enforcement powers. Republicans remained silent.


Mr. Mulvaney also threatened the credibility of the agency's workforce. To insulate the CFPB from politics, Congress gave it only one political appointee-the director-and mandated that it hire all other employees based on merit. When Mr. Mulvaney arrived, he sought special authority to hire political allies to oversee the bureau's divisions-an unprecedented move among financial regulatory agencies. He has also reassigned some duties from experienced senior officials to political staff, claiming that many career staffers "were political anyway." Republicans remained silent.


I've written Mr. Mulvaney several letters containing a total of 125 questions about these and other decisions he's made at the CFPB. Mr. Mulvaney has failed to respond to more than 100 of those questions. If Republicans truly cared about the accountability of the CFPB, they would have pressed Mr. Mulvaney to respond to congressional oversight questions. Instead, they remained silent.


Congress designed the CFPB to be a nimble watchdog for America's consumers, accountable to Congress in the execution of its duties. Under the leadership of former Director Richard Cordray, it was exactly that-returning $12 billion to families who were cheated, issuing new rules to clean up the mortgage market, and responding to congressional oversight from both parties.

Mr. Mulvaney has undermined the bureau's work on behalf of consumers and has repeatedly failed to comply with legal mandates, while the Republicans who control Congress have refused to use the tools available to them to rein him in. I intend to use every tool available to me to make sure the CFPB follows the law and stands up for consumers.

Read the full op-ed on the Wall Street Journal's website here

By:  Senator Elizabeth Warren
Source: Wall Street Journal