Let’s start by correcting the record.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not a “joke . . . in a sick, sad kind of way.”
That’s what the bureau’s new acting director, Mick Mulvaney, once called the agency. Hopefully, he quickly realizes how wrong he was.
The bureau emerged out of the rubble of the 2008 financial crisis, created as part of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations to protect consumers from future banking and mortgage harm. The brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, then a Harvard Law School professor, the bureau has provided nearly $12 billion in financial relief to 29 million Americans since 2010. Most recently, the bureau was part of the investigation and settlement with Wells Fargo, whose employees had fraudulently opened as many as 3.5 million bank accounts and credit cards in their clients’ names without permission.
The bureau acts as a watchdog, investigator, safeguard against malfeasance, and regulatory authority. Although often the target of Wall Street criticism, the agency is important to consumers’ financial health and future.
But now, Mulvaney, also the White House’s budget director, is in charge, after a federal judge ruled against deputy director Leandra English, who claimed she was the agency’s rightful leader. Mulvaney hasn’t been a fan of the bureau’s work. Since taking the job, he froze hiring and data collection efforts, suspended new regulations and began reviews of ongoing enforcement actions.
Luckily, Mulvaney isn’t running a one-man show. There are more than 1,600 career civil servants at the bureau who understand the laws they must enforce and there are other checks and balances to Mulvaney so he won’t be able to undo the agency’s work overnight.
But through budgeting, hiring and resource allocation, he could try. And that’s not what consumers need. The bureau needs more authority and enforcement power, and more funds and personnel — not less. It needs a director who believes in the mission, and works to strengthen it.
And it should be taken seriously. It is most certainly not a joke.