Mulvaney already is making his mark on consumer bureau, and still sparring over its leadership

Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

WASHINGTON--Mick Mulvaney is moving quickly to put his stamp on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency he has strongly criticized, even as he continues to spar with the deputy director over who is in charge.

Mulvaney, the White House budget director whom President Trump appointed to the post Nov. 24, said he had already started installing some of his aides in bureau jobs and was reviewing ongoing legal actions against financial firms. He also expressed support for House legislation introduced last week to repeal the bureau's recent regulations cracking down on payday and other short-term loans.

His actions come despite an expectation that Deputy Director Leandra English will continue her legal battle and file for a temporary injunction that would seek to oust Mulvaney from his office and reinstate her as acting director.

"Aside from her presence here, which is a little strange, I won't lie to you, I think things are going extraordinarily smoothly and extraordinarily well," Mulvaney said Monday of English, whom he said continues to report for work.

Mulvaney said he expected to be in the job for five to seven months because a permanent director still must be nominated and then confirmed by the Senate.

Among his priorities in that time, he said, was acting on an inspector general's report this year that raised concerns about the bureau's data security efforts that "scares me to death."

He said he was halting the collection of all data containing personally identifiable information about consumers as part of the bureau's oversight of banks and other firms until the security issue is "buttoned down."

"We're not going to start collecting data under my watch until we are absolutely confident that stuff isn't going to get hacked," Mulvaney said. The bureau's previous leadership team had been taking the problem seriously, he said..

It was a rare positive comment directed toward Richard Cordray, an appointee of President Barack Obama who was the bureau's first director and clashed often with Mulvaney and other Republicans.

The disputes continued after Cordray stepped down Nov. 24. He promoted English, his chief of staff, to deputy director and said she would serve as acting director under a provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which created the bureau.

Trump then appointed Mulvaney under a different law, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998. English sued, saying she was lawfully entitled to the position. A federal judge ruled in Mulvaney's favor last week.

English's attorney indicated she would seek a preliminary injunction. A conference is scheduled Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for English's attorney, Deepak Gupta, and Justice Department lawyers to work out a schedule for legal arguments.

English has been at the bureau's headquarters "from time to time" and also has been working from another bureau office a few blocks away, Mulvaney said. He has not met with her yet and doesn't expect to.

"It's always a challenge when you're in a workplace with somebody who is suing ... to sort of chat around the water cooler, so I have attempted to correspond with her via email, which I believe to be the appropriate manner," Mulvaney said.


He said he's sent English about half a dozen emails on two topics but has not received any replies.

One topic involved asking her to "please cease holding yourself out as acting director," Mulvaney said. As recently as Thursday, English was sending emails through the bureau "saying she was acting director and actually giving people instructions which were occasionally counter to mine," he said.

Those emails were confusing to employees and put them in a difficult situation, Mulvaney said. He also said he emailed her asking her to perform some deputy director duties.

Mulvaney said he was "absolutely not" considering firing English.

"We need everybody doing their jobs," he said.

Gupta did not respond Monday to a request for comment.

Mulvaney, who continues as director of the Office of Management and Budget, said he was at the bureau all day Saturday even though his office was extremely hot. The thermostat only for that office was locked at 80 degrees and could not be changed without a security code that nobody had.

Mulvaney said it occurred to him that might have been a prank tied to his controversial appointment.

"If it was, I appreciate that kind of deviousness," he said.

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