Senate Banking Takes Turn Questioning Mulvaney on New Look CFPB
Just one day after acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Mick Mulvaney fielded questions from the House Financial Services Committee, he appeared before the Senate Banking Committee to discuss his agency’s semi-annual report and policy matters at the Bureau. Data security was a chief concern at the hearing, especially after recent reports that the CFPB had ended its investigation prematurely into the security breach at Equifax last summer that caused sensitive information for more than 143 million Americans to leak.
Like the prior day’s questioning in the House, Senate Democrats also grilled the acting director on his enforcement agenda. Ranking member Sherrod Brown (D- OH) calculated that Mulvaney’s CFPB had pursued “negative four” (-4) enforcement actions since he took over the agency last November. That number was negative due to the fact that the CFPB had yet to initiate any new enforcement actions under Mulvaney’s watch, but the agency had withdrawn a lawsuit against four small dollar tribal lenders earlier this year.
After trading barbs in recent weeks in competing newspaper editorials, everyone anticipated the exchange between Mulvaney and the founder of the CFPB, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D- MA). Sen. Warren began by reminding the acting director that he had previously supported legislation in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016 to abolish the CFPB either outright or through budget measures. Then she asked Mulvaney about a series of prior enforcement activities at the CFPB and expressed concern the outcome would not have been as favorable for consumers had the CFPB not pursued damages against the companies. In each instance, Mulvaney responded that another federal regulatory body, like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency or the Federal Trade Commission, could have easily stepped in to enforce federal consumer protection laws.
Mulvaney’s dual role as acting director of the CFPB and Director of the Office of Management and Budget created some awkward situations at the hearing where Mulvaney was forced to answer questions entirely unrelated to his role as leader of the Bureau. Sen. Jon Tester (D- MT) questioned him about cuts to farm insurance in the 2018 budget, and Sen. Dean Heller (R- NV) engaged in a discussion about the funding of nuclear waste storage and disposal. Despite being off topic, Mulvaney still answered their questions.
Mulvaney refused to agree with Sen. Tom Cotton (R- AR) that the CFPB was unconstitutional, however the CFPB leader did agree the agency would operate with more stability under a five-member commission. In reference to the lawsuit currently on appeal in the DC Circuit regarding the lawful acting director of the agency, Mulvaney said that he had no contact with his challenger, Deputy Director Leandra English, and he was unsure how she spends her days at the Bureau.