Entire operation of federal consumer regulator under review

NEW YORK (AP) — The Trump-appointed acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Wednesday that he is launching a review of all the federal consumer watchdog agency’s policies and priorities.

This is the second major step taken this week by Mick Mulvaney, who took over as acting director in late November, to reshape the bureau. On Tuesday, the bureau announced a review of its recently enacted rules for payday lending.

The review is the clearest sign yet that the future direction of the CFPB, which has existed for less than a decade, will be dramatically different than it was under the Obama administration.

Mulvaney said in a statement Wednesday that he is putting out formal requests for information for all “enforcement, supervision, rulemaking, market monitoring, and education activities” of the bureau — effectively the entire bureau’s operations. Requests for information are a beginning step by federal agencies such as the CFPB to make changes to any rules they may have already put into place.

“In this New Year, and under new leadership, it is natural for the bureau to critically examine its policies and practices to ensure they align with the bureau’s statutory mandate,” Mulvaney said.

The CFPB was created in the aftermath of the housing market bubble, 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent Great Recession. It was designed as a consumer-centric federal regulator with a mandate to go after banks, credit card companies, debt collectors and other financial companies for bad behavior.

Under its first permanent director Richard Cordray, the CFPB exercised its mandate aggressively, putting into place new regulations impacting huge swaths of the banking industry from mortgages to prepaid debit cards. Republicans in Congress repeatedly would call the CFPB a rogue agency. One of those Congressional Republicans was Mulvaney, who as a Republican representative from South Carolina, once called the CFPB a “sick joke” of an agency.

What rules Mulvaney wants to review or possibly repeal is unknown. His announcement Wednesday was broad, aimed at the entire operations of the bureau, so anything could come of it.

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