Mick Mulvaney Arrives to Assume Top Job at Consumer Protection Bureau

By Yuka Hayashi Features Dow Jones Newswires

The White House's budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, arrived at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Monday to assume the job of acting director after an Obama-era official sued to block the Trump administration from taking control of the agency.

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Mr. Mulvaney, carrying a bag from Dunkin' Donuts, entered the building early Monday with aides at his side. Officials at the White House's Office of Management and Budget, which Mr. Mulvaney leads, later tweeted an image showing him sitting at a desk reading briefing books on the consumer regulator.

It wasn't clear whether Leandra English, a career staffer appointed Friday to lead the CFPB by former director Richard Cordray, was also working in the building. She filed a lawsuit in federal court Sunday night in an attempt to stop the Trump administration from running the bureau while the White House finds a permanent nominee to head the CFPB. Mr. Cordray, the former director appointed by President Barack Obama, stepped down on Friday.

Drama over the immediate future of the CFPB is still playing out. Mr. Mulvaney hasn't taken any actions yet to alter the course of the bureau, but he is expected to do so soon unless legal developments freeze his involvement in the agency. Ms. English is seeking a temporary restraining order in federal court, in a process that could play out quickly and raises questions on how different statutes regarding succession apply to the CFPB.

President Donald Trump asserts he has the power to appoint an acting director, while the departing chief believed the law said otherwise. That means that both Mr. Mulvaney and Ms. English have claimed the acting top job.

The unfolding drama is the latest twist for the CFPB, which has been mired in partisan battles since the agency was created in the wake of the financial crisis.

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The agency was created in response to criticism that the previous regulatory structure didn't prevent a mortgage-market meltdown because the responsibility for consumer protection was scattered among various agencies. To allow the CFPB to work quickly, lawmakers designed the bureau to be independent, stating that its single director could only be dismissed by the president for "inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office" and insulating its budget from congressional oversight.

CFPB moves drew praise from consumer advocates and Democrats. But Republican lawmakers and the financial industry have long said the agency's rules and supervisory and enforcement activities have increased compliance costs and reduced credit availability for vulnerable consumers the bureau was created to protect. The pushback has been particularly strong from industries that had previously been regulated lightly, such as payday and auto lending.

Republicans have proposed curbs to the CFPB's power, including turning it into a commission, giving Congress control of its budget and narrowing the scope of its regulatory powers that would leave it primarily an enforcement agency.

Write to Yuka Hayashi at yuka.hayashi@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 27, 2017 10:36 ET (15:36 GMT)