Speed Reads

Take My Power — Please

Mick Mulvaney formally asks Congress to neuter the consumer financial protection agency he heads

Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's budget director, asked Congress on Monday to weaken the power and independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the consumer watchdog he temporarily heads as his second job. "The bureau is far too powerful, with precious little oversight of its activities," Mulvaney said in a note accompanying a 56-page report to Congress, his first as acting CFPB director. Among his suggestions were requiring that all significant rules be approved by Congress, allowing the president to fire the CFPB director for any reason not just specific and justifiable cause, and taking away the bureau's independent funding from the Federal Reserve and handing it to Congress.

"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," Mulvaney said. Banking lobbyists cheered his suggestions, but consumer advocates frowned. Mulvaney's changes "would stab a knife through the heart of the CFPB's mandate to protect consumers from financial industry abuses," said Public Citizen's Lisa Gilbert. Ed Ed Mierzwinski at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group said that Mulvaney had already "made it clear" he wants "a weak agency that payday lenders and Wall Street can run roughshod over."

Mulvaney is set to testify before Congress next week, setting up a likely showdown with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the CFPB's strongest defender. Mulvaney has already steered the agency away from prosecuting payday lenders and frozen its enforcement actives, but the changes he is proposing require approval by Congress. "The chances of this are slim," The New York Times says, "as Democrats in the Senate have vowed to block any bills that would harm the consumer bureau."

Before Mulvaney took over — an appointment subject to legal challenge — the CFPB provided about $12 billion in refunds and debt relief for consumers and played a central role in punishing Wells Fargo for creating millions of accounts without customer permission.