MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
A Trump appointee running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has disbanded a consumer advisory board, and that board helped the bureau identify unfair practices at financial companies.
Consumer advocates say they have been snubbed for months by the new leadership at the bureau. And critics of the bureau's acting director say he has been taking lots of meetings with the very financial companies he is supposed to be policing. All right. Here to help us make sense of this is NPR's Chris Arnold. Hey, Chris.
CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.
KELLY: So let me name this acting director. This is former Republican Congressman Mick Mulvaney, who's been a controversial pick to run the bureau, even in an acting capacity. Back when he was a congressman, he referred to it as a joke. So what's up with this latest move?
ARNOLD: Right. You know, this is one of these cases of the president finding, perhaps, the guy who hates the agency the most and then putting him in charge of running that very agency, right? I mean, like you said, Mulvaney, when he was back in Congress, he actually drafted legislation to abolish this bureau.
And now since he's come in, he's done a series of steps that have scaled it back, you know, made it a less aggressive watchdog. He's very open about wanting to do that. And so now what's happened is he's effectively disbanded an advisory board that had a bunch of consumer advocates and experts on it. And saying, look, well, we're just not going to meet with you guys anymore.
And we spoke to Kathleen Engel. She's a law professor at Suffolk University Law School. She's been on this board, and she was on the phone call this morning with one of Mulvaney's deputies, along with other members of this board. And here's what she had to say.
KATHLEEN ENGEL: It was at that conference call we were told that the Consumer Advisory Board members were all going to be relieved of their duties. It's deeply distressing. And they were talking out of both sides of their mouths. And it's quite clear that we've been fired.
KELLY: Chris, what are Mulvaney and his deputies saying about this? What's their explanation?
ARNOLD: Well, they're saying that nobody's been fired. We're keeping this board together while we reconstitute a new board, maybe with people that they like better. But Engel's saying, well, it's kind of a smokescreen. Technically, they're still on the board, but they're not going to have any meetings, and they're not going to be able to do anything.
KELLY: Well, is it a smokescreen? I mean, why do this?
ARNOLD: Well, the official word is this is to streamline the process, come up with a smaller, more effective advisory board, maybe do some town hall meetings. But critics say, look, it looks like the new leaders at the CFPB just don't want to meet with these consumer groups.
And meanwhile, they've been meeting with a lot of industry people. There's - the calendar that Mick Mulvaney holds apparently shows that he's met with credit card companies, banks, even payday lenders, some of whom contributed to his campaign when he was in Congress.
KELLY: All right. Thanks very much, Chris.
ARNOLD: Thanks, Mary Louise.
KELLY: That's NPR's Chris Arnold.
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