4:51 p.m. CST // On Monday afternoon, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officially released its strategic plan for fiscal years 2018 - 2022, confirming a shift away from enforcement that had been rumored by alleged internal memos earlier during the day.
In the introductory message from CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, he said, "In reviewing
the draft Strategic Plan released by the Bureau in October 2017, it became clear to me that the
Bureau needed a more coherent strategic direction." Vowing to hew to the Bureau's statutory responsibilities but go "no further," Mulvaney explained that "pushing the envelope in pursuit of other objectives ignores the will of the American people" and "also risks trampling upon the liberties of our citizens."
Mulvaney says that the revised strategic plan will draw its focus from the Dodd-Frank Act that originally created the Bureau, shifting focus toward “[regulating] the offering and provision of
consumer financial products or services under the Federal consumer financial laws” and “[educating and informing] consumers to make better informed financial decisions.”
The CFPB strategic plan lays out three goals:
- Ensure that all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services.
- Implement and enforce the law consistently to ensure that markets for consumer financial products and services are fair, transparent, and competitive.
- Foster operational excellence through efficient and effective processes, governance, and security of resources and information.
The full CFPB strategic plan for 2018 - 2022 is available to read by clicking here.
On Monday, the White House also released President Trump's 2019 budget plan, which proposes major changes for the CFPB. As reported by the Washington Post, the President's budget plan would have the CFPB funded through Congress rather than the Federal Reserve, which would give the Bureau more Congressional oversight. The plan would also diminish the CFPB's enforcement capabilities and cap the agency's budget at its 2015 level of $485 million, down from a projected $630 million in 2018.
According to a statement released by the White House, "The proposed reforms would impose financial discipline, reduce wasteful spending, and ensure appropriate congressional oversight. ... To prevent actions that unduly burden the financial industry and limit consumer choice, the proposal restricts CFPB’s broad enforcement authority over Federal consumer law.”
1:25 p.m. CST // According to an internal memo acquired by National Public Radio, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will be further shifting its focus under Acting Director Mick Mulvaney. According to Reuters, the memo was written by CFPB Chief of Staff Kirsten Sutton and distributed to agency staff on Friday. It outlines a new strategic plan that is expected to be released by the CFPB later this week, one which will dial back the Bureau’s focus on enforcement. “If there is one way to summarize the strategic changes occurring at the Bureau, it is this: we have committed to fulfill the Bureau’s statutory responsibilities, but go no further,” Sutton said in the memo, according to Reuters.
The memo reportedly does not go into detail about the specifics of what those statutory responsibilities will be limited to. However, the memo does highlight some of the CFPB’s responsibilities as “regulating the offering and providing of consumer financial products under the law, and with educating and empowering consumers to make informed financial decisions,” according to Reuters. The memo also lays out a vision of “free, innovative, competitive, and transparent consumer finance markets where the rights of all parties are protected.”
It’s been a hectic few months at the CFPB under the leadership of Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, who is also the White House Budget Director. After CFPB Director Richard Cordray announced his retirement in November 2017, the stage was set for a showdown between Trump’s chosen successor, Mulvaney, and Cordray’s appointed replacement, Leandra English. Both parties insisted they were the rightful head of the organization, with English filing a lawsuit attempting to obtain a restraining order against Mulvaney. At the time, the CFPB’s own general counsel backed Mulvaney, who was a long-time outspoken critic of the Bureau, which was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.
Mulvaney went on to implement a 30-day hiring and regulatory freeze at the CFPB, and more recently brought the Office of Fair Lending under his own supervision, as reported by the Washington Post. In mid-January, a U.S. District Judge backed Mulvaney’s claim as legitimate head of the CFPB, saying the English had failed to meet the “exacting standard” necessary for him to issue a preliminary injunction. In his written opinion, Judge Timothy J. Kelly said, “The president has designated Mulvaney the CFPB’s acting director, the CFPB has recognized him as the acting director, and it is operating with him as the acting director. Granting English an injunction would not bring about more clarity; it would only serve to muddy the waters.”
On February 7, the CFPB issued a Request for Information about the Bureau’s enforcement processes, stating, “The Bureau is seeking information to help assess the overall efficiency and effectiveness of its processes related to the enforcement of federal consumer financial law. … This is the third in a series of RFIs announced as part of Acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s call for evidence to ensure the Bureau is fulfilling its proper and appropriate functions to best protect consumers.”