Having spent four months waiting for their chance to grill Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee dropped the ball yesterday, instead choosing to spend their five minutes of question time posturing or seeking to score cheap political points rather than going after an agency that has largely done nothing more than send out Requests For Information asking everyone whether they think the CFPB should be doing what it was created to do.
To be fair, a couple of Democrats attempted to pin Mulvaney down on the fact that the agency has not announced a single enforcement action since he joined the CFPB as acting director in late November, but Mulvaney kept pivoting to the fact that the agency has only dismissed one of the 25 pending lawsuits that were on the books when he came on board.
Suffice to say, nobody asked about the CFPB’s activities in the debt collection industry, or the status of a proposed debt collection rule. Maybe someone on the Senate Banking Committee will ask that today when Mulvaney appears.
Mulvaney did drop a few nuggets during his responses yesterday, for example noting that he is looking into consolidating or closing some of the CFPB’s offices — it maintains two in Washington, D.C., as well as field offices in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
In answering questions from Republicans on the committee, Mulvaney used the time to advocate for his ideas of what would make the CFPB more accountable and reduce some of the power he feels the director of the agency has too much of. Those changes include bringing the CFPB under the Congressional appropriations process and helping what constitutes “abusive” when looking at Unfair, Deceptive, or Abusive Acts or Practices (UDAAP) violations.
“I can not believe I can walk down the street and get a check for $700 million,” from the Federal Reserve, which provides the CFPB with its funding, Mulvaney said. “That’s just wrong.”
The only real test Mulvaney faced came when questioned by Rep. Carolyn Maloney [D-N.Y.], who tried to use the lack of enforcement actions as proof that Mulvaney’s CFPB has gone soft on companies violating consumer protection laws.
When asked if every single financial institution has suddenly “snapped” into compliance following Mulvaney’s appointment, which would explain the lack of enforcement actions, Mulvaney answered, “Nothing could be farther from the truth,” which is an interesting choice of words.
Does that mean that there have been violations that the CFPB has not chosen to enforce?
Under further questioning, Mulvaney described a three “bucket” process of supervising and enforcement, with the first bucket representing investigations, the second bucket representing deciding whether to “settle or sue,” and the third bucket representing actually going after an institution.
“Nothing has moved out of settle or sue,” during his tenure, Mulvaney said.