WASHINGTON — Mick Mulvaney provided another reminder Tuesday — if one were needed — that he is not a typical banking regulator.
The acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who also serves as head of the Office of Management and Budget, took shots at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during a speech to credit union executives, dismissing her criticism of his leadership of the consumer bureau.
"We get about one letter a week from her and she asks me why I have done what I have done," Mulvaney told the crowd, referring to Warren, who founded the bureau and helped to set it up. "We are progressively moving to a response that I want to send her, which is essentially to say, look, if you don’t like what I am doing, complain to the person who wrote the statute."
Mulvaney's jab, though hardly unusual in partisan politics, is a clear sign of how the deterioration of relations among policymakers now includes even bank regulators. In the past, regulators have gone out of their way to seem above the political fray. While they were criticized, they usually responded obliquely or through intermediaries, and seldom if ever directly rebuffed a lawmaker of either political party.
But Mulvaney does not appear interested in continuing that tradition. Last week he sent a letter to Warren in which he didn't respond to any of her questions about his policy changes at the bureau, instead objecting to her criticism of his actions.
In response to Mulvaney's remarks, a spokesperson for Warren said, "Mick Mulvaney continues to violate Dodd-Frank and other legal requirements in his attempt to gut the CFPB. Senator Warren looks forward to Mulvaney following the law and providing the American people with appropriate explanations for his actions, which she has requested several times."
During his speech before the Credit Union National Association, Mulvaney also said he is a credit union member and sought to make a distinction with other financial companies.
“We recognize the fact that you all did not cause the financial crisis and that you should not be regulated … like the folks who might have done those things,” said Mulvaney, repeating a talking point often used by credit unions.
Members of CUNA and the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions met with President Trump and other White House officials on Monday, where much of the debate focused on walking back regulations and the CFPB.
J. Mark McWatters, who chairs the Nation Credit Union Administration, is on the short list to be nominated as permanent director of the CFPB. The credit union executives who met with Trump said they expressed support for McWatters' work at NCUA.
Mulvaney said that under his leadership, the bureau will not take a “one size fits all” approach to regulation. He also said he will have the bureau conduct more stringent cost-benefit analysis in evaluating regulations — likely giving more weight to “costs” than former CFPB Director Richard Cordray did.
“We are also going to start taking a look at the cost-benefit analysis and they are going to be real, so that when we actually look at a regulation we actually do look very, very hard at the true cost of that,” he said. “We need people to offer loans.”
Under the leadership of Cordray, the bureau was often accused of regulating through enforcement, but Mulvaney said that he is taking a different approach with more clear rules of the road.
“We are not going to be looking for ways to sue people,” Mulvaney said. But, he added, “Yes, we are going to be enforcing the law.”
“In the future, you will know the rules before we accuse you of breaking them,” he said.
The bureau has recently taken steps to delay investigations into lenders that charge high interest rates, which has drawn the ire of consumer advocates.