Who’s Leading The CFPB? White House And Agency Have Different Answers


When Richard Cordray, now the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced his resignation Friday, he also named a temporary acting successor.

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today announced that Leandra English has been officially named deputy director of the agency,” read a press release.

Under Dodd-Frank, the 2010 law which authorized CFPB, the agency’s deputy director will “serve as acting Director in the absence or unavailability of the Director.” English had previously served as Cordray’s chief of staff.

In a letter to agency staff announcing English’s status as acting director, quoted by the Washington Post Friday night, Cordray wrote that he had “come to recognize that appointing the current chief of staff to the deputy director position would minimize operational disruption and provide for a smooth transition given her operational expertise.”

President Donald Trump had a different idea.

“Today, the President announced that he is designating Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney as Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB),” a paragraph-long press release read. “The President looks forward to seeing Director Mulvaney take a common sense approach to leading the CFPB’s dedicated staff, an approach that will empower consumers to make their own financial decisions and facilitate investment in our communities.”

Mulvaney, memorably, said in 2014 that the CFPB was a “sick, sad joke” and that “some of us would like to get rid of it.” It’s safe to assume that, even as acting director, the current White House budget chief has a different vision for the CFPB than the former chief of staff to the Obama administration’s pick to lead the agency.

A White House source with knowledge of the administration’s position told TPM Saturday that “the President is using his long-established authority under the [Federal Vacancies Reform Act] to designate Director Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB. The President believes this appointment will ensure an orderly transition and proper management of the CFPB until a permanent director is confirmed.”

The Associated Press cited unnamed administration officials who called Mulvaney’s appointment “routine.” One unnamed official, in AP’s words, “described Cordray’s move on Friday as designed to provoke a legal battle.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), perhaps the strongest champion of the agency in the Senate and a driving force behind its creation, disputed the White House’s legal logic on Friday.

The Dodd-Frank Act is clear: if there is a CFPB Director vacancy, the Deputy Director becomes Acting Director,” she wrote. “President Trump can’t override that. He can nominate the next CFPB Director – but until that nominee is confirmed by the Senate, Leandra English is the Acting Director under the Dodd-Frank Act.”

Press representatives for the agency did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment. The White House source did not say whether the White House has been in touch with the agency.