Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), disbanded the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) on Wednesday in what critics are calling just his latest in a series of moves to "quietly sabotage" the agency.
"Mick Mulvaney will always stand up for the powerful Wall Street special interests... He'll burry his head in the sand so he doesn't have to hear the voices of consumers, experts, and those who want him to fulfill the mission of the CFPB."
"Everyone on the board has been fired," said Judith Fox, a professor of consumer law at Notre Dame Law School and three-year member of CAB—a group of 25 economic and financal experts that the watchdog agency is legally required to meet with at least twice a year.
Several other ousted CAB members confirmed Fox's statement to the Associated Press, sharing details from a Wednesday conference call and an email officially dismissing them. While the board will be reconstituted later this year, Fox said none of the fired members will be allowed to apply.
"Firing the current CAB members is another move indicating Acting Director Mick Mulvaney is only interested in obtaining views from his inner circle, and has no interest in hearing the perspectives of those who work with struggling American families," responded ousted CAB chair Ann Baddour, a project director at the nonprofit Texas Appleseed.
"This is what happens when you put someone in charge of an agency they think shouldn't exist," tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who played a key part in establishing the CFPB.
.@MickMulvaneyOMB has no intention of putting consumers above financial firms that cheat them. This is what happens when you put someone in charge of an agency they think shouldn’t exist. https://t.co/1Vs4xNE2it
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 6, 2018
Karl Frisch, executive director of the advocacy group Allied Progress, said the decision demonstrates "Mick Mulvaney is only looking out for his Wall Street friends that have showered him with more than a million dollars in campaign cash over the years."
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"When push comes to shove, Mick Mulvaney will always stand up for the powerful Wall Street special interests that have had his back. He'll burry his head in the sand so he doesn't have to hear the voices of consumers, experts, and those who want him to fulfill the mission of the CFPB," Frisch added. "Consumers deserve a champion not a corporate shill."
"Apparently Acting Director Mulvaney is willing to listen to industry lobbyists who make campaign contributions, but not the statutorily appointed Consumer Advisory Board members," said National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) attorney Chi Chi Wu, another fired CAB member. "Firing current members of the advisory board is a huge red flag in this administration's ongoing erosion of critical consumer financial protections that help average families."
The CFPB said in a statement that it "will continue to fulfill its statutory obligations to convene the Consumer Advisory Board and will continue to provide forums for the Community Bank Advisory Council and the Credit Union Advisory Council. The Bureau will continue these advisory groups and will use the current 2018 application and selection process to reconstitute the current advisory groups with new, smaller memberships."
Ousted board member Max Levchin, founder of financial services company Affirm, rejected the agency's claims that the decision was motivated by desires to diversify membership and save money. He also warned that "without this direct line to all stakeholders, CFPB's job becomes much harder, perhaps nearly impossible."
The announcement on Wednesday followed a report earlier this week by David Dayen at The Intercept that during Mulvaney's tenure as head of the CFPB, the agency has ignored both rules and established precedent, cancelling two in-person board meetings and several conference calls with little notice.
"It's disturbing to watch the current administration of this bureau do so much to undermine the bureau's core," Lynn Drysdale, then-vice chair of CAB, had told Dayen. "The present administration is more concerned with restructuring and installing political staff than protecting consumers."