Color of Money: We must all fight to defend a key watchdog for financial fairness

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- I am an unapologetic advocate for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created in the wake of a crippling financial crisis that I fear is becoming a distant memory.

But we have to remember: It was not that long ago when financial institutions did some funky stuff that pushed us into the Great Recession.

Now the agency designed to protect consumers -- yes, sometimes even from themselves -- is a hot mess.

The director of the CFPB, Richard Cordray, stepped down last week, and now there's a fierce fight to see who will temporarily take his place until a permanent leader is nominated and confirmed.

President Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney as acting director, even though Mulvaney already has another day job as head of the Office of Management and Budget. Trump's motives seem clear: Weaken the agency by sending in Mulvaney, a former congressman who voted to abolish the agency.

Leandra English, who was named acting director by Cordray shortly before he left office, filed a lawsuit Sunday to stop the appointment of Mulvaney.

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This battle for the CFPB leadership is like watching a train derailment. But make no mistake folks, we are on this train, too. It's our interests that will be tossed to the side when the train stops skidding.

Even if English is successful in her lawsuit, the CFPB under the current administration won't be what it was intended to be -- a tough advocate for consumers. Mulvaney said as much.

"Anybody who thinks that a Trump administration CFPB would be the same as an Obama administration CFPB is simply being naive," he said during a news conference. "Elections have consequences."

Despite the naysayers, the CFPB is like a caped crusader standing in the path of predatory practices. At the most basic level, the agency is working to ensure that the financial industry is adequately informing you about what products and services you're being sold. Yet the agency has been vilified from day one for this mission by Republicans. Here are the two main arguments in favor of derailing the CFPB.


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