Rep. Davidson: CFPB Has Been Fraught With Politicized Conduct
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
There are still questions about who is really in control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency was set up in 2011 to protect consumers from financial industry abuses, and it currently has two people claiming to be the boss - Leandra English, who was tapped by the outgoing chairman to lead the agency, and President Trump's pick, budget director Mick Mulvaney. Both of them showed up for work Monday morning. They each sent emails calling themselves, quote, "acting director." But Mulvaney brought doughnuts, and he asserted his control at a press conference yesterday.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
MICK MULVANEY: A buddy of mine actually wrote me this morning and said that only in Washington, D.C., could you get sued for actually showing up for work, which is what I got sued for today, apparently. So no, we're going to - you know, we're going to go by the book when it comes to dealing with any employee, including Miss English.
MARTIN: Mulvaney there referencing the lawsuit that Leandra English has filed. To talk more about the future of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we are joined by Republican Congressman Warren Davidson of Ohio.
Congressman, welcome to the program.
WARREN DAVIDSON: Good morning.
MARTIN: Mick Mulvaney has been an outspoken critic of the CFPB. He once called it a joke, as an example of a bureaucracy gone wrong. What do you want him - see him do as the leader of the - of this agency?
DAVIDSON: I think help restore a constitutional form of governance to the CFPB and - you know, the court has a - this isn't just a Republican opinion. This is a court opinion that says, hey, it's not constitutionally structured. And you're looking at the crisis of that. The House tried to deal with this in May when they passed the Choice Act, and the Senate hasn't yet worked through it.
Of course, Elizabeth Warren's on the committee of relevance, and within the hour of Cordray's resignation, she was already sending out fundraising emails for Cordray's next political move. So the whole agency has been fraught with politicized conduct, and it's not been there for the good cause of protecting consumers.
MARTIN: You're talking about the level of oversight that this agency has had or has not had. Mick Mulvaney, on his very first day yesterday, announced a temporary freeze on hiring and rule-making, which is a big deal because that's what this agency does. It makes rules that protect consumers. Are you concerned that this signals that he's not necessarily looking to lead the agency, to make reforms, but essentially to close it down?
DAVIDSON: No, I think it signals that he is very serious about that. And frankly, that's a pretty standard move when you have a new cabinet secretary anywhere. It's like, hey, now that I'm in charge, let's make sure that you run things through me; we'll establish a reasonable review process and get everyone used to working together. And I think that's his role as the leader - at least, for however long that may be. I think he'll do a great job at it.
MARTIN: Would you like to see the agency gone or do you see it as having an important place?
DAVIDSON: Yeah, I think the goal of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - who's opposed to the consumer being protected? The reality is is that when Democrats put this in, they did it with zero support from Republicans, and they did it because - they didn't just do it to protect consumers. They did it in a way that has this nice-sounding name, but it's very pernicious in its effect on the economy. And it's been led by a complete political opportunist who's been very - been criticized by the people that were in the hiring process for having a very politicized hiring process, even.
MARTIN: Supporters of the agency will point to something like the Wells Fargo case, where that bank opened up millions of fake accounts, and because of the protections under the CFPB, the bank was held to account for that. If that agency is reformed or changed, what would happen in that case?
DAVIDSON: Well, the CFPB didn't discover the problem, despite all the regulatory overlay of Dodd-Frank, which we've tried to fix since May in the House with a bill that passed called the Choice Act. Wells Fargo went on right under the noses of the regulators. And so the CFPB pointed it out after the Los Angeles Times ran stories about it. So what would happen is, the standard regulatory framework that prosecutes fraud would prosecute fraud. The SEC would be involved, as they are, and you wouldn't have politicized statements by a political guy like Richard Cordray.
MARTIN: Who - the former director of the CFPB. Congressman Warren Davidson, Republican from Ohio - thanks so much for your time this morning.
DAVIDSON: Thank you very much.
MARTIN: We're going to turn now to NPR business editor Uri Berliner, who was listening to that conversation.
Uri, what stood out to you in that conversation?
URI BERLINER, BYLINE: Well, the congressman talked about what he and fellow Republicans don't like about the CFPB. It's too powerful. They feel it's not - many feel it's not constitutional, politicized. But he didn't talk about, OK, if the Republicans prevail and Mick Mulvaney becomes the acting director, how do they propose to protect consumers?
You know, financial products are complicated. Sometimes they're deceptive or even illegal. The public - generally, they want strong enforcement to protect consumers. So what is the Republican plan? How do they see this bureau going forward, and what's their - what are their ideas, practically, for protecting consumers?
MARTIN: Uri Berliner is NPR's business editor, posing their questions that still need to be answered about the future of the CFPB. Thanks so much, Uri.
BERLINER: Thank you, Rachel.
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