Monday, November 27, 2017

A Bureau in Distress

Jonathan Foxx
Chairman & Managing Director
Lenders Compliance Group

Once again, I find myself having to defend the rule of law over the rule of profligate politics. Again, my concern involves the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB” or “Bureau”). (For instance, previously, I provided magazine articles, White Papers, and posts in defense of the CFPB’s Arbitration Rule, which endeavored to preserve consumers’ access to class action litigation.[i])

I stand by this guiding principle:

What is good for the consumer is good for the merchant. No amount of dissimulation or convoluted reasoning should be given credence with respect to ascertaining the consumer’s fundamental, constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness in a symmetric marketplace.

On Sunday evening (11.26.17), Leandra English, the CFPB’s Deputy Director, sued Donald Trump,[ii] the President, from replacing her as Acting Director with Mick Mulvaney, who is the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. English, a CFPB official with an impeccable background, filed the case in her capacity as a private citizen. Her suit names both Trump and Mulvaney as defendants.

English was named Acting Director on Friday, shortly before Director Richard Cordray resigned his position, effective at midnight on November 24, 2017.[iii] At approximately 2:30PM-EST on November 24, 2017, before leaving office, Director Cordray publicly announced that he had appointed Leandra English, who was the Bureau’s Chief of Staff, as the Bureau’s Acting Director, to ensure that she would become the Acting Director until the confirmation by the Senate of a new Director is appointed by the President.[iv]

Her lawsuit asks the federal court in Washington to prevent Trump from installing Mulvaney as the Bureau’s Acting Director. If Mulvaney keeps his current job and yet obtains this appointment, his role as Acting Director of the CFPB would entitle him to also sit on the board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as well as the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a panel of regulators created by Dodd-Frank. Such a configuration of responsibilities may cause a conflict of interest.

Mulvaney has never previously served in any capacity in a consumer-protection enforcement or financial or banking regulatory agency at the state, federal, or local level. Indeed, he has described the CFPB as a “sad, sick joke,” and co-sponsored legislation proposing to eliminate the agency. At a hearing in the House of Representatives, Mulvaney said, “I don’t like the fact that CFPB exists, I’ll be perfectly honest with you.” How does this individual’s background and philosophy square with the notion that the consumer should have an advocacy agency that is not beholden to financial interests?

Compare the foregoing credentials to those of English. She has served as the CFPB’s Chief of Staff as well as several senior leadership roles at the CFPB, including Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Acting Chief of Staff, and Deputy Chief of Staff. Outside of the CFPB, English served as the Principal Deputy Chief of Staff at the Office of Personnel Management, the Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director for Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget, and as a member of the CFPB Implementation Team at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

As a consumer, which of these individuals would you want to be your advocate?