Who Is The Real Acting Director? Dueling Emails From Inside The CFPB

Andrew Harnik/AP
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Just who is in charge of protecting consumers from predatory business practices?

The battle underway for the leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is being fought in the CFPB’s inboxes Monday morning.

The fight is between the very conservative Mick Mulvaney, the current director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Leandra English, the next in command behind Obama’s recently departed pick, Richard Cordray.

Trump is trying to appoint Mulvaney as acting director of CFBP, which English says is illegal. For her part English claims the law provides that she became acting director when Cordray stepped down. English filed suite over the weekend, asking for both a temporary injunction and a restraining order against Mulvaney.

Monday morning, English sent the following email to her colleagues at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and signed it “Leeandra English, Acting Director:”

Dear Colleagues,

I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving. With Thanksgiving in mind, I wanted to take a moment to share my gratitude to all of you for your service.

It is an honor to work with all of you.

Best,
Leandra English
Acting Director

Moments later, Mulvaney replied, also signing his email “acting director”:

All,

I was working on an introductory email just now to thank all of you for the very smooth transition this morning as I assume the role of Acting Director; I hope to finish that email shortly.

However, it has come to my attention that Ms. English has reached out to many of you this morning via email in an attempt to exercise certain duties of the Acting Director. This is unfortunate but, in the atmosphere of the day, probably not unexpected.

Please disregard any instructions you receive from Ms. English in her presumed capacity as Acting Director. If you receive additional communications from her today in any form, related in any way to the function of her actual or presumed official duties (i.e. not personal), please inform the General Counsel immediately.

I apologize for this being the very first thing you hear from me. However, under the circumstances I suppose it is necessary.

I look forward to working with all of you. If you’re at 1700 G St today, please stop by the fourth floor to say hello and grab a donut.

Thanks,
Mick Mulvaney
Acting Director

The head of operations at the CFPB, Sartaj Alag, tried to play referee:

Ops Colleagues:

While you may be reading a variety of views in the news, our general counsel has advised that Mick Mulvaney is our interim director, and we should do our part to collaborate with him and his team on a smooth transition.

If you have questions about anything related to the CFPB leadership transition, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I encourage you to review the Bureau’s policies on media inquiries, congressional inquiries, and intergovernmental inquiries (available on the wiki). The CFPB leadership transition has been the subject of several press stories over the weekend. Please follow the applicable guidelines should you receive inquiries about this or any other matter related to the Bureau’s operations.

Thanks very much for your dedication and professionalism.

Sincerely,

Sartaj Alag
COO

A source tells TPM that there is very little institutional support for Mulvaney, who has been broadly critical of government regulation and of the CFPB in particular.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Thielman is an investigative reporter for Talking Points Memo based in Manhattan. He has worked as a reporter and critic for the Guardian, Variety, Adweek and Newsday, where he covered stories from the hacking attacks on US and international targets by Russian GRU and FSB security services to the struggle to bring broadband internet to the Navajo nation. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son and too many comic books.
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