Commentary

Rather Than Meet, Mulvaney Tells CFPB Advisers To Take A Hike

Mick Mulvaney, the administration’s budget director who has been doubling as the acting director — and chief defanger — of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, yesterday relieved all 25 members of its Consumer Advisory Board of their duties. The CFPB says it will replace them with smaller advisory groups that “will ensure streamlined discussions about the bureau’s policy priorities and needs in a productive manner.”

“By law, the bureau must convene the advisory board and hold at least two in-person meetings with its members a year. The bureau canceled a meeting scheduled for February, and last week it canceled one planned for this week,” Stacy Cowley reports for the New York Times.

That didn’t sit well with some of the members, as you might imagine.

“On Monday, 11 CAB members held a news conference and criticized Mulvaney for, among other things, canceling legally required meetings with the group,” reports Renae Merle for the Washington Post. “On Wednesday, group members were notified that they were being replaced — and that they could not reapply for spots on the new board.”

“The decision is the latest in a series of moves Mulvaney has made in his six-month tenure to more closely align the bureau with business interests — a stark change from the hard-charging, pro-enforcement stance taken by his predecessor, Richard Cordray,” observes Politico’s Katy O’Donnell.

“Everyone on the board has been fired,” Judith Fox, a professor of consumer law at Notre Dame Law School who sat on the board for three years, tells the Associated Press. 

“Firing the current CAB members is another move indicating acting director Mick Mulvaney is only interested in obtaining views from his inner circle, and has no interest in hearing the perspectives of those who work with struggling American families,” CAB chair Ann Baddour, director of the Fair Financial Services Project at the Texas Appleseed Project, says in a statement released by the National Consumer Law Center..

Not so, according to the bureau’s recently appointed chief communications officer and spokesperson, John Czwartacki, with Orwellian certitude.

“‘The Bureau has not fired anyone,’ says Mulvaney spox after CFPB's policy board was put on ice. Then: ‘The outspoken members … seem more concerned about protecting their taxpayer funded junkets to Washington, DC and being wined and dined by the Bureau than protecting consumers,’” the New York Times Glenn Thrush tweets.

“CAB members called those comments insulting and outrageous. Several said that some members offered to pay their own expenses during a conference call explaining the changes and wondered why they weren’t asked to do so before,” Sylvan Lane reports for The Hill.

“The CFPB covers airfare and a hotel stay for board members flying into Washington, D.C., for the meetings, making up a small percentage of the agency’s budget. CAB members said the CFPB would put them up in budget hotels in the district’s outskirts, and that they spent the vast majority of their time in a conference room,” Hill continues.

The advisory board members include consumer advocates, academics and former bank executives, Bloomberg’s Elizabeth Dexheimer informs us

“Mulvaney, who runs CFPB part-time while also serving as head of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told the board members that his decision to reshuffle the panels was driven by efforts to cut costs across the agency,” she continues.

“Previously, when he was in Congress, Mulvaney sponsored legislation to abolish the bureau. In April, he said he wanted to shut down public access to a popular government database at the CFPB. In February, he indicated he wanted to scale back the CFPB's role as a watchdog. And under Mulvaney, the CFPB delayed a new payday lending regulation and dropped an investigation into one payday lender that contributed to his campaign,” NPR’s Chris Arnold and Avie Schneider report.

“The CFPB said the board's members and those of two other agency boards, the Community Bank Advisory Board and the Credit Union Advisory Board, were terminated and that they were not allowed to re-apply,” Kate Berry writes for American Banker.

“We've decided we're going to start the advisory groups with new membership, to bring in these new perspectives and new dialogue,' Anthony Welcher, a political appointee and the CFPB's policy advisory for external affairs, told CAB members during a brief call, Berry reports after listening to a recording of it. “We want more diverse voices and we want to bring people in from larger-scale organizations, larger-scale opportunities in the communities to hear about processes we may be going through,” Berry continued.

Anyone else suspect the new “diverse voices” will sound a lot like the diversity looks like in this photograph of the White House’s spring 2018 intern class?

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