November 30, 2017
By Joe Kloc
The director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which since its creation after the 2008 financial crisis has provided victims of predatory banking practices with $11.8 billion in compensation and debt relief, resigned his office and appointed as deputy director Leandra English, a longtime federal employee who had previously served as the agency’s chief of staff. US president Donald Trump, who once said Americans could “opt out” of the recession by investing in a Trump-branded marketing company that sold multivitamins purportedly tailored to customers’ needs based on their urine, announced that he did not recognize English as the CFPB’s acting director, and instead appointed as the agency’s interim head the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, who once referred to the CFPB as a “joke” that he wanted to eliminate and whose former congressional chief of staff left his office to work as a lobbyist for the bank Santander, which was fined $10 million by the CFPB for “illegal overdraft practices” and is now reportedly facing another CFPB lawsuit, this time for overcharging customers. English sent the agency’s staff an email in which she referred to herself as the “acting director,” Mulvaney tweeted a photo of himself working in the director’s office and told employees to “disregard” English and to “stop by” and “grab a doughnut,” and the CFPB’s webpage for information on its director displayed the message “not found.” A lawyer for the Office of Legal Counsel, who once served as lead counsel for a payday lender that was cited by the CFPB for attempting to circumvent federal and state laws in order to offer high-cost loans, wrote a memo justifying the appointment of Mulvaney by citing the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, which gives the president “exclusive means” to appoint acting directors “unless a statutory provision expressly designates” an employee to do so; English filed an emergency restraining order against Trump and Mulvaney that cited the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, which provided for the creation of the CFPB and mandated that the deputy director should serve as the head of the agency “in the absence” of the director; and the case was assigned to a Trump-appointed judge, who ruled that, despite the 2010 legislation, the acting director was Mulvaney, who received about $475,000 in contributions from the financial, insurance, and real estate industries during his 2016 congressional campaign, including $9,200 from JPMorgan Chase, which was fined $4.6 million by the CFPB for failing to provide consumers with information about checking account denials; $6,000 from Wells Fargo, which was fined $100 million by the CFPB for the “widespread illegal practice of secretly opening unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts”; $8,000 from Citigroup, which was fined $8 million by the CFPB for “illegal debt sales and debt collection practices”; $7,500 from SunTrust Bank, which was fined $40 million by the CFPB to compensate Americans whose homes were foreclosed; and $9,250 from Bank of America, which was ordered by the CFPB to pay $727 million in relief to customers “harmed by practices related to credit card add-on products.” Mulvaney, who in 2016 wrote on Facebook that he had spent his career doing “the exact opposite” of pushing for “regulations on banking,” announced he would halt any new rulemaking at the CFPB, stop all outgoing payments to consumers from its civil penalties fund, and “find out” if he is justified in firing English. “Rumors that I am going to set the place on fire” are “completely false,” he said, before issuing a hiring freeze.