Just as Mick Mulvaney fired members of a board that advises the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on consumer issues last month, the agency's acting director was also taking steps to re-form the panel with less than a quarter of its sitting members.
On June 5, Mulvaney signed an amended charter to reconstitute the consumer advisory board with only six members, according to a copy of the charter obtained by American Banker. A day later, the board's 25 volunteer members were fired along with roughly 35 members of two other advisory boards.
The board's new amended charter states that the board "will have no formal decision-making role and no access to confidential supervisory or other confidential information." The document also indicates that the amended charter was filed on June 20 with the Senate Banking Committee, the House Financial Services Committee, the General Services Administration and the Library of Congress. The advisory board was originally created under the Dodd-Frank Act.
All the board members were fired via a conference call by Anthony Welcher, the CFPB's policy adviser for external affairs and one of a dozen political appointees hired by Mulvaney. The firings came after several consumer lawyers and advocates complained in media reports that Mulvaney had refused to meet with them or convene the boards at all this year.
Days later, Mulvaney said the boards were fired because they were too big and he wanted meetings held in private because he feared information would leak to the media.
The board's new amended charter has nearly identical language to the old one with the exception of the smaller number of members.
"The Board shall consist of six members serving one-year terms, appointed upon the recommendation of the regional Federal Reserve Bank Presidents on a rotating basis," the charter states. "All members appointed by the Director shall serve at the pleasure of the Director."
The charter states that the estimated operating cost for the board is roughly $150,000 including staff time.
The charter also states that the board may be composed of "a mixture of representatives and Special Government Employees," which gives board members a special exemption from financial conflicts of interest and impartiality rules.
Six of the consumer advisory board's 25 members who were fired in June had been appointed on the recommendation of regional Fed presidents.
Some CFPB experts consider the agency's boards to be ancillary since they have little power. But the board members — a mix of consumer advocates, attorneys and high-level executives at banks and other fintech companies — viewed the firings as politically motivated.
Last week, 25 Senate Democrats sent a letter to Mulvaney urging him to reinstate the board and asking for more details on the firings.
"By dismissing the [advisory board], the CFPB is deliberately rejecting statutorily required advice from qualified professionals who are volunteering their services to the American public, with no credible explanation as to why the present CAB members are not fulfilling their responsibilities," the letter said.
Like President Trump, who has sought to eliminate rules and regulations put in place by his predecessor, Mulvaney also has made a number of decisions specifically to undo the work of his predecessor, former CFPB Director Richard Cordray, who is running for governor of Ohio.
Most notable has been Mulvaney's decision to officially change the name of the bureau to the Bureau of Financial Consumer Protection, or BFCP. The CFPB's staff has been changing the agency's name and seal on thousands of documents.
It is unclear if Mulvaney has created new charters to reconstitute the CFPB's other boards, the Community Bank Advisory Board and the Credit Union Advisory Board, neither of which is mandated by Dodd-Frank. A fourth board, called the Academic Research Council, provides technical advice and feedback to the CFPB's Office of Research. It has not yet been disbanded and held a meeting in May.