Yesterday the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP or Bureau) announced that Acting Director Mick Mulvaney had named Brian Johnson Acting Deputy Director. Johnson is currently serving in the recently created role of Principal Policy Director. He replaces Leandra English, who announced on Friday that she would be dropping her lawsuit against Mulvaney and President Trump over her claim that she is the rightful temporary leader of the Bureau.
English has continued to hold her position as her lawsuit proceeded, but it's unclear what her responsibilities have been. They famously both showed up for work on Monday after Thanksgiving (Mulvaney toting donuts), and issued dueling email memos to staff claiming to be in charge. Mulvaney has claimed that he's never met her, and clearly they have not had the collaborative relationship you'd normally see (or hope for) between a director and his or her deputy.
Mulvaney originally appointed Brian Johnson to a key leadership role in December 2017, just a few weeks after Trump named him Acting Director at the Bureau. Johnson is an attorney and was a former aide to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).
Not surprisingly, Rep. Hensarling released this statement today:
"Brian's deep understanding of the law and the Bureau's structure was an invaluable asset to me during his time at the Financial Services Committee. There is no one who understands the Bureau more or who is more committed to ensuring the Bureau lives up to its mission of truly protecting consumer access to financial choice and freedom."
Johnson now officially holds the position he has likely unofficially held for half a year. Along with the appointment, the Acting Director issued this statement:
“Brian Johnson is the first person I hired at the Bureau and has been an indispensable advisor. Brian knows the Bureau like the back of his hand. He approaches his role as a public servant with humility and unsurpassed dedication. His steady character, work ethic, and commitment to free markets and consumer choice make him exactly what our country needs at this agency.”
Prior to Johnson's tenure as counsel and then policy director for the House Financial Services Committee, he was an assistant attorney general for the state of Ohio, a law clerk for Justice Terrence O'Donnell in the Supreme Court of Ohio, and a staff assistant for the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Since Acting Director Mulvaney has made it clear he views debt collection as a priority, I suspect Brian Johnson will figure prominently as a decision maker in any enforcement, supervision or rulemaking for the industry. Beyond his legislative exposure, Johnson does not have a background in financial services. So, it would appear that the work of industry advocates to educate a changing roster of regulators on the complex nuances of debt collection continues.