Mulvaney to drop public complaints against firms, change CFPB name

WASHINGTON — Acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Mick Mulvaney vowed to bankers on Tuesday that he would halt the agency’s actions against indirect auto dealers, stop posting consumer complaints online and change the bureau’s name.

Mulvaney, speaking to more than 1,300 bankers at an American Bankers Association conference, addressed two major areas that the industry has long argued was statutory overreach by the prior leadership at the agency.

“We are going to do what the law says, but not what the law doesn’t say,” said Mulvaney, who brought the bureau’s statutory book to point to where the agency had limitations.

Acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney

“The CFPB doesn’t exist. The CFPB has never existed,” said acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney.

Bloomberg News

For example, Mulvaney cited a statute in the Dodd-Frank Act that restricted the CFPB from going after auto dealerships. The CFPB, under previous director Richard Cordray, did not cite auto dealers directly but went after a handful of major lenders that partner with dealerships, arguing the lender was responsible for unintentional discriminatory lending at the dealer.

The industry and conservatives have long argued the CFPB overreached in this area. And there are ongoing efforts by Republicans to repeal the CFPB’s 2013 guidance that warned indirect auto lenders of such enforcement. Mulvaney added that the bureau is “going to pay attention to these sorts of limitations” that restricted the CFPB from citing auto dealerships.

“We are going to look at those, we are going to follow those and we’re going to abide by those” limitations, he said.

Another area that Mulvaney plans to rein in is the CFPB’s public consumer complaint portal. The industry has argued the complaints are not fully vetted before being posted online, which can create reputational harm.

Mulvaney in March released a request for public comment on how the agency should handle its consumer complaints. Since then, he has been careful not to detail his plans, but he signaled Tuesday that he intends to make the consumer complaints private.

“I don’t see anything in here that says I have to make all of this public,” he said. “We are going to maintain the consumer database. It is mandated by law,” but “I don’t see anything in here that I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government.”

Mulvaney also said he wants to change the name of the CFPB to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, its official name in the Dodd-Frank Act that created the agency in 2010.

“I’m trying to get in the habit of now saying the ‘BCFP.’ It’s really, really hard to do that when you’ve said the CFPB for so long,” Mulvaney said at the ABA conference. “We do call it the bureau and were hoping that that sticks.”

The agency is in the early stages of this change but has gone so far as to request The Associated Press to change its name entry in the AP stylebook, according to recent media reports.

“The CFPB doesn’t exist. The CFPB has never existed,” said Mulvaney, while waving a book of the agency’s statutes. “I’m not sure who made that decision. I think I can guess; she might be in the Senate.”

Mulvaney was alluding to the bureau’s founder, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who for months has sparred with Mulvaney over his rapid changes to the agency, arguing his ultimate aim is to unwind the agency. It’s not clear who made the agency the CFPB or what that person’s rationale was. But Mulvaney saw it as significant.

“If the very first act that someone does when they’re in the bureau . . . is not follow the statute, that probably doesn’t set a good precedent for what’s going to come afterwards,” Mulvaney said.

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