Opinion: Under Mulvaney’s Leadership, the CFPB Can Finally Live Up to Its Name

Acting director is steering agency away from unlawful legislating and toward protecting consumers

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney testifies before a Senate Budget hearing on the administration’s fiscal 2019 budget in the Dirksen Building on Feb. 13. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Mick Mulvaney and I served on the House Financial Services Committee together for nearly four years before President Donald Trump selected him to run the Office of Management and Budget. In that time, we worked together to ensure transparency and accountability across the financial sector.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created by the Obama administration and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., with the promise of being a “strong, independent agency that levels the playing field and protects American families, seniors, students and veterans.” But in practice, the CFPB has been an unaccountable, unconstitutional, politically driven agency that has punished consumers and pushed them to riskier, unregulated financial products.

The crown jewel of the agency was a single director, accountable to no one. Mick Mulvaney now serves on a temporary basis in the very role the previous administration created, as the sole director of the CFPB. It’s a role with powers that would “frighten most of you,” he said during his first day on the job in November. Over the past four months, he has proved himself an exceptional leader, steering the agency away from unlawful legislating and toward its statutory mandate to protect consumers.

To those who say he is weakening consumer protections, acting Director Mulvaney is simply following the law, adhering to the statutory mandate laid out in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul.

As a former bank examiner and small-town banker, and as chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, I understand and appreciate the need for consumer protection. In the past, the CFPB has buried consumers and our economy under an avalanche of regulations without a clear understanding of their impact on the consumers they are charged with protecting. We must protect consumers from discriminatory practices, but we must be cautious that the cure is not actually spreading the disease.

That’s why I am thankful for the leadership of acting Director Mulvaney. Under his direction, the CFPB is moving away from its previous role as a punitive regulatory agency, becoming an advisory and oversight agency with a culture focused on protecting consumers and businesses across the nation. Not only is he changing the culture, he is striving to be efficient, effective and accountable, requesting no money from the Federal Reserve. Acting Director Mulvaney has proved to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars, a virtue that is sorely lacking in much of Washington, D.C.

Since taking the helm at the CFPB, he has called for a full review of agency activities, a welcome step toward accountability and transparency. Just last week, the agency issued a public request for input on positive and negative aspects of the bureau’s rule-making processes. In the past, we have seen the CFPB treat its rule-making process as if it were a legislative one, and that is simply unacceptable.

Throughout my career, I have worked to root out consumer abuses in the financial system. Looking to the future, I am confident that President Trump will nominate someone who can continue to run the agency in the best interests of American consumers. The CFPB must become an advisory and advocacy agency delivering well-deserved relief to consumers across the nation.

As acting Director Mulvaney recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “We are government employees, and we work for the people. That means everyone: those who use credit cards and those who provide the credit; those who take out loans and those who make them; those who buy cars and those who sell them. All of those people are part of what makes this country great, and all of them deserve to be treated fairly by their government.”

The CFPB has a well-intended mission to protect consumers, and under Mulvaney’s leadership, the agency is well on its way to fulfilling that duty and finally living up to its name.

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer is a Republican representing the 3rd District of Missouri. He serves as chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit and as vice chairman of the House Small Business Committee.

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