Just before the holidays, as a federal judge heard arguments about whether Leandra English or Mick Mulvaney should be the interim leader of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (that case is still pending), Acting Director Mulvaney officially changed the Bureau's mission statement.
Here's what it was under Director Cordray:
“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance 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.”
Here's what it is now:
“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by regularly identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations, by making rules more effective, by consistently enforcing federal consumer financial law, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.” (emphasis added)
What's new here is the concept of identifying unnecessary or burdensome regulations -- one we've heard from President Trump in his earliest days in office -- and a change in enforcement focus from CFPB rules to "federal consumer financial law." Oh, and the word "fair" was removed.
This change has of course made CFPB proponents, including the Bureau's founder Sen. Elizabeth Warren, apoplectic.
Meanwhile, in other recent developments that are unpopular with former CFPB proponents, Acting Director Mulvaney has:
- Announced new staff additions -- several of them on loan from his other place of work, the Office of Management and Budget.
- Abandoned the planned consumer debt collection disclosure survey.
- Announced that the Bureau does not intend to assess penalties for errors in data collected in 2018, and plans to reconsider aspects of the Mortgage Data Rule.
- Announced that the Bureau expects to issue a final rule amending certain aspects of its 2016 rule governing prepaid accounts soon after the new year.
Some have speculated that the leadership change at the CFPB might mean that debt collection rules will never see the light of day. I'm not so sure I agree with that. There has certainly been a delay. However if the new mission to "identify and address outdated... regulations" applies to any industry, it is tailor-made for debt collection. With a law enacted in the 1970's and a mass of conflicting court decisions, rules governing this industry need to be simpified, clarified, and modernized.