CFPB acting director requests 4 major changes to bureau operations

WASHINGTON, D.C. - 

As another state in the Northeast established an consumer protection agency that resembles the one at the federal level, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau included what he called a “request that Congress make four changes to the law to establish meaningful accountability for the bureau.”

Mick Mulvaney made the declaration this week as the CFPB released its semi-annual report highlighting the bureau’s work. This is the first report issued by Mulvaney, and it includes his four recommendations for statutory changes to the bureau.

“The bureau is far too powerful, with precious little oversight of its activities,” Mulvaney said. “The power wielded by the director of the bureau could all too easily be used to harm consumers, destroy businesses or arbitrarily remake American financial markets.

“I’m requesting that Congress make four changes to the law to establish meaningful accountability for the bureau. I look forward to discussing these changes with Congressional members,” he went on to say.

In the report’s introduction letter, Mulvaney recommends four changes to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act).

The first recommendation is to fund the Bureau through Congressional appropriations. The second is to require legislative approval of major rules.

His third recommendation is to ensure that the director answers to the president in the exercise of executive authority. And the fourth is to create an independent inspector general for the bureau.

“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 that opening letter. “Such continued frustration with the bureau’s lack of accountability to any representative branch of government should be a warning sign that a lapse in democratic structure and republican principles has occurred.

“This cycle will repeat ad infinitum unless Congress acts to make it accountable to the American people,” he added.

The complete semi-annual report from the CFPB can be downloaded here.

Initial reaction to Mulvaney moves

As Mulvaney reference about the assessment of bureau performance by lawmakers, observers who closely watch activities on Capitol Hill and beyond offer reaction that demonstrated the polar-opposing views of the potential CFPB changes.

Consumer Bankers Association president and chief executive officer Richard Hunt gave an upbeat assessment of Mulvaney’s recommended statutory changes to the CFPB.

“We appreciate acting CFPB director Mick Mulvaney’s goal of bringing greater accountability to the bureau,” Hunt said

“We look forward to hearing further details from acting director Mulvaney on his policy proposals in his upcoming testimony before Congress, and we strongly believe an independent, bipartisan commission at the CFPB — not subject to the political shifts of changing administrations — is the best way forward to provide for accountability, certainty and stability at the CFPB,” Hunt went on to say.

Meanwhile, consumer advocacy organization Allied Progress sent a press release to SubPrime Auto Finance News in which the subject line blared, “Mulvaney Goes in for the Kill, Asks Congress to Cripple the CFPB.”

Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, elaborated on the organization’s stance.

“Mick Mulvaney knows the work of the CFPB is extremely popular with consumers. That is why he didn’t propose the outright elimination of the bureau – though that is effectively what he is seeking. The CFPB was designed to be an independent financial watchdog so that politicians in D.C. who take millions from Wall Street special interests can’t easily stop its important work,” Frisch said.

He continued, “Mulvaney wants to put members of Congress in charge of the CFPB’s funding and require congressional approval of its consumer protection rules because he knows it will grind the bureau’s work holding big banks, predatory lenders and other bad financial actors to a halt. Who better to go to bat against the CFPB than a bunch of D.C. politicians on the take from Wall Street special interests.”

“The courts have already ruled that it is perfectly constitutional to prohibit the President from firing the CFPB’s director without cause. Under the law, the President can appoint a new director when the previous director steps down or their five-year term expires. That’s not a good enough for Mulvaney and Wall Street. They won’t stop until the CFPB’s director constantly wonders if defending consumers and holding industry accountable on any given day will cost them their job,” Frisch concluded.

CFPB-like agency now in New Jersey

In related developments, New Jersey joined Pennsylvania in creating a regulator that acts similar to the CFPB, but on a state level.

New Jersey attorney general Gurbir Grewal recently announced that Governor Phil Murphy will nominate Paul Rodriguez to serve as the director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the lead state agency charged with protecting consumers’ rights, regulating the securities industry and overseeing 47 professional boards.

Grewal explained Rodriguez’s selection highlights the administration’s efforts to fill the void left by the Trump Administration’s “pullback” of the CFPB, fulfilling one of Murphy’s promises to create a “state-level CFPB” in New Jersey.

Rodriguez, a New Jersey native, is currently serving as acting counsel to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio where he provides advice and strategic guidance to the mayor and top administrative officials on legal, management and policy objectives. As a member of Mayor de Blasio’s senior management team, Rodriguez was dedicated to ensuring a fairer and more just city for all.

“As the federal government abandons its responsibility to protect consumers from financial fraudsters, it is more important than ever that New Jersey picks up the mantle to protect its own residents,” Grewal said. “Paul has the energy and ability necessary to lead the Division as we work to protect New Jerseyans from fraud and professional misconduct in the marketplace.”

During his time in city government, Rodriguez managed numerous aspects of de Blasio’s human rights, equity and “good government” reform agendas, including transparency, worker equity and expansions to the Human Rights Law.

Before joining the de Blasio administration, Rodriguez was an associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York City where he worked in a variety of areas, including financing transactions, securities regulation, and intellectual property. His pro bono work for the firm included assisting with the negotiation of a multi-million dollar framework agreement on behalf of indigenous tribes in Peru.

Rodriguez also served as the Simpson Thacher & Bartlett extern to Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, representing nonprofits dedicated to serving low-income communities. He previously served as a projects specialist and senior staff member for U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, specializing in transportation, infrastructure, organized labor, and homeland security.

Rodriguez will begin serving as acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs on June 1. Murphy will formally nominate Rodriguez to the position, which is subject to the advice and consent of the State Senate.

In the interim, Kevin Jespersen will serve as acting director of the division, a position currently held by Sharon Joyce, who is transitioning to lead the Office of Attorney General’s newly created Office of the New Jersey Coordinator of Addiction Response and Enforcement Strategies (NJ CARES).

“Kevin is a consummate professional and a trusted member of my leadership team. His willingness to step in as acting cirector ensures that the Division of Consumer Affairs will be in capable hands during this time of transition,” Grewal said. “I am grateful for all Sharon has accomplished during her tenure in Newark, both as deputy director of the Division of Law and as acting director of the Division. Now that she is free to dedicate herself fully to her role as director of NJ CARES, I look forward to Sharon’s continued successes as she leads New Jersey’s fight to end the deadly scourge of addiction.”

All of the developments in New Jersey arrived less than a year after Pennsylvania’s attorney general took similar steps in creating an agency like the CFPB.

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