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How Mick Mulvaney is dismantling a federal agency

Catherine Rampell on

Most of that original language remains. But now the first example the statement offers to illustrate how the bureau "helps consumer finance markets work" is "regularly identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations."

This language is more than symbolic.

The agency has begun revisiting or delaying new regulations. It has also pulled back from enforcing existing laws and regulations.

Last week, without explanation, the bureau withdrew a lawsuit against a group of online payday lenders that were charging interest rates as high as 950 percent. These loans were not just expensive and predatory; they were also, according to the original lawsuit, illegal under many states' laws and therefore void.

Then this week, the bureau dropped an investigation into an installment lender that was a subject of a ProPublica series documenting questionable lending practices.

Coincidentally, that same company, World Acceptance Corp., donated thousands to Mulvaney's own congressional campaigns. (The bureau said the determination to drop the probe was made by career staff and that "any suggestion that Acting Director Mulvaney had any role in the decision is simply inaccurate.")

Other investigations may have been shelved, too, though we don't know how many, because the CFPB is not required to disclose when it opens or closes an investigation. We only know about the World Acceptance Corp. case because the company announced it to shareholders.

When he was a congressman, Mulvaney co-sponsored a bill to eliminate the bureau, making him at least the second Trump appointee to run an agency or department that the appointee previously suggested should not exist. He lacks the power to kill the agency, but he has nonetheless managed to put his money where his mouth is.

Literally. Last week, Mulvaney told the Federal Reserve the bureau deserved zero dollars in the second quarter and pledged to draw down its emergency reserves instead.

Mulvaney recently released a letter to CFPB staffers (a version of which was also published in the Wall Street Journal) explaining the philosophy behind all these changes.

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