Mulvaney thwarts Warren inquiry, citing CFPB structure

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau acting Director Mick Mulvaney said Thursday that the agency’s fundamental structure prevents him from fully responding to accusations regarding his stewardship of the bureau, and only structural reforms would compel him to be more accountable.

In a written response to a letter from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — the latest in a running series of public statements between the two officials — Mulvaney declined to answer specific questions Warren and other Democrats in Congress have posed in previous letters, and suggested that those questions might be based on incorrect or unreliable information.

“I could go through the almost eleven pages of single-spaced allegations of all that has supposedly gone wrong at the Bureau under my leadership,” Mulvaney said. “As you can imagine, I have a very different take on what is actually happening at the Bureau (and, tellingly, my information is based on being here and does not rely on sources such as leaked — and sometimes provably false — materials).”

Mulvaney goes on to say that Warren's frustration is understandable. He writes that he felt similarly frustrated with former CFPB Director Richard Cordray when he was in Congress and urges Warren to consider that the structure of the agency might be to blame.

“When I served on the House Committee on Financial Services as a Member of Congress, I was frequently frustrated with what I perceived to be a lack of responsiveness, transparency and accountability at the Bureau,” Mulvaney wrote. “I encourage you to consider the possibility that the frustration you are experiencing now, and that which I had a few years back, are both inevitable consequences of the fact that [the Dodd-Frank Act] insulates the Bureau from virtually any accountability.”

The two policymakers have been butting heads for months now. Warren is widely considered the architect of the consumer agency, while Mulvaney has been a vocal critic since its inception.

Mulvaney said he is “trying to improve on the Bureau’s record” of transparency and accountability, but that “none of that will change the Bureau’s DNA, which is the Dodd-Frank Act that created it. Only by changing the oversight requirements can the Bureau truly be made permanently accountable and transparent.”

Warren’s prior letters have sought additional information about several of Mulvaney’s actions since being named interim director, including reversing course on a pending rule for payday lenders, reorganizing the bureau’s fair lending office and freezing the collection of personally identifiable information, among other issues. Warren had said in her most recent letter that 105 of her questions to the acting director remain unanswered.

Mulvaney concludes his letter by saying that he is “looking forward” to discussing Warren's concerns when he testifies before the Senate Banking Committee later this month.

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Law and regulation Payday lending Cyber security Mick Mulvaney Elizabeth Warren CFPB