Financial Regulation

CFPB Under Mulvaney Will Go ‘No Further’ Than Meeting Its Statutory Responsibilities

Strategic plan slated for release by Feb. 12 differs from mission set forth under Richard Cordray

Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult photo

A revised strategic plan that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau expects to release in the coming days says the agency, led by Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, intends to go “no further” than the requirements stipulated in the Dodd-Frank Act when it comes to regulating the financial industry.

Kirsten Sutton Mork, who’s chief of staff at the CFPB, wrote in an email sent to all agency employees that the CFPB plans to publish its updated strategic plan by Feb. 12. “If there is one way to summarize the strategic changes occurring at the Bureau, it is this: we have committed to fulfill the Bureau’s statutory responsibilities, but go no further,” she wrote.

Morning Consult viewed a copy of the email, which was sent on Friday.

The new mission statement for fiscal years 2018-2022 borrows language from the 2010 Dodd-Frank language that established the agency, saying the CFPB’s goal is “to regulate the offering and provision of consumer financial products or services under the Federal consumer financial laws and to educate and empower consumers to make better informed financial decisions,” according to the email.

That revised version differs from a draft strategic plan published in October, when now-former Director Richard Cordray was still at the bureau’s helm. At that time, the agency’s stated mission was to help “consumer financial markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.” Similar language was included in the CFPB’s strategic plan for fiscal years 2013-2017.

Representatives for the CFPB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The vision statement outlined in Friday’s email differs in other ways from the October draft. Under the new vision, the CFPB plans to focus on ensuring “free, innovative, competitive and transparent consumer finance markets where the rights of all parties are protected by the rule of law” and that consumers are “free to choose” products and services.

One of the ways the agency will achieve its objectives is by “acting with humility and moderation,” Sutton Mork wrote.

Under Cordray, the draft strategic plan stated that the agency’s goal was, among other things, to ensure that “no one can build a business model around unfair, deceptive or abusive practices” and “consumers can see prices and risks up front.”

The differences between the two plans are further examples of how Mulvaney’s leadership has marked a departure from Cordray’s. Mulvaney, who also serves as the director of the Office of Management and Budget and was a CFPB critic when he was a House lawmaker, has come under criticism from Democrats for the changes he has instituted at the bureau.

In a Jan. 23 opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal, Mulvaney said he intends for his leadership to differ from that of Cordray, who is now a Democratic candidate for governor of Ohio. “If Congress wants us to do more than it set forth in the Dodd-Frank Act, it can change the law,” Mulvaney wrote.

Republicans often accused Cordray of stepping beyond the CFPB’s authority, while supporters of the agency under his leadership say he effectively and lawfully executed his objectives.

Cordray led the CFPB from its establishment in 2011 until November 2017. President Donald Trump then appointed Mulvaney to lead the agency on an interim basis.