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In Effort to Gut Agency He Runs, Mulvaney Asks Congress to Roll Back CFPB Independence

"Mulvaney's proposed changes would stab a knife through the heart of the CFPB's mandate to protect consumers from financial industry abuses."

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney holds a news conference to discuss the Trump Administration's proposed FY2017 federal budget in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House May 23, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Further building on his tireless efforts to "defang" the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from the inside, White House Budget chief and acting CFPB head Mick Mulvaney asked Congress on Monday to pass several legislative changes that would dramatically diminish the agency's independence and roll back its ability to protect consumers from predatory financial firms.

"This is what happens when you put someone actively hostile to an agency's mission in charge of that agency."
—Public Citizen

In the CFPB's semi-annual report (pdf) delivered to lawmakers Monday, Mulvaney argued that the bureau he leads is "too powerful" and that it should be more tightly constrained by Congress and the president—a proposal critics say is a thinly-veiled attempt to undermine the bureau's intended role as an independent watchdog free from political influence.

"This is what happens when you put someone actively hostile to an agency's mission in charge of that agency," Public Citizen tweeted as the new proposals were made public, alluding to Mulvaney's efforts as a congressman to eliminate the CFPB entirely.

Mulvaney—who was controversially installed as the CFPB's acting head by President Donald Trump last November—requested that Congress make four changes to the bureau, including:

  • Requiring that CFPB's funding come from Congress rather than the Federal Reserve, which would "make it easier" for lawmakers to slash the agency's funding, as Ryan Grim and Zaid Jilani of The Intercept note;
  • Giving Congress "veto power" over future CFPB rules, a change that Grim and Jilani argue "would have a clear bias in favor of industry" given Congress's abysmal record on passing consumer protection measures;
  • Ensuring that the CFPB answers to the president, whose most recent budget called for a 25 percent cut to the bureau's funds;
  • Establishing an independent inspector general for the CFPB.

"Mulvaney's proposed changes would stab a knife through the heart of the CFPB's mandate to protect consumers from financial industry abuses," Public Citizen concluded.

While the new proposals are among the most dramatic changes Mulvaney has put forth since taking control of the CFPB last year, they align perfectly with the long list of anti-consumer actions he has taken over the last several months, to the dismay of progressive lawmakers, corporate watchdogs, and the public.

"Republicans never really cared about accountability. They only wanted the agency to be less effective at stopping financial firms from cheating people."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
As Common Dreams has reported, Mulvaney has moved to scrap a rule aimed at curtailing predatory payday lending, dropped or heavily scaled back probes into Equifax and payday loan collectors, and altered the agency's official mission statement to emphasize deregulation over consumer protection.

While Mulvaney argues that the CFPB hasn't been subjected to sufficient congressional restraints, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—who spearheaded the creation of the CFPB in 2007—argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week that it is Mulvaney who has been working hard to avoid accountability for his actions by ignoring congressional mandates and dodging questions from lawmakers.

"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," Warren wrote. "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."

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