Consumer chief ousts Obama-era advisers
Some call Mulvaney’s moves hostile takeover
To President Trump’s consumer chief, the latest in a series of changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is part of a normal transition from one White House administration to another. To some consumer advocates, the moves instead represent a hostile takeover that undermines the federal watchdog’s mission.
Mick Mulvaney, the consumer bureau’s acting director as well as the White House budget chief, this week oversaw a significant shake-up of the bureau’s Consumer Advisory Board and similar advisory councils for community banks and credit unions.
The groups will be reconstituted with “new, smaller memberships,” according to an email bureau officials sent to the groups’ members.
Scheduled for completion in the fall, changes will include regional town hall meetings, roundtable discussions at the bureau’s Washington, D.C., headquarters and elsewhere, and other efforts in a “new strategy to increase high-quality feedback” on consumer issues, the email said.
“We don’t plan on having any additional meetings until the appointment of new board and council members,” the email added. “Until such time, existing advisory board and council members may continue to serve their existing terms.”
There was no quiet leave-taking for the jilted members, many of them veterans of local consumer protection groups across the nation. They called the shake-up a mass firing.
“Firing current members of the advisory board is a huge red flag in this administration’s ongoing erosion of critical consumer financial protections that help average families,” said Chi Chi Wu, a member of the Consumer Advisory Board and an attorney for the National Consumer Law Center.
The Boston-based center added advisory group members were told “that their terms were terminated, and they were not permitted to reapply.”
The formal announcement of the changes was delivered by Anthony Welcher, a consumer bureau policy adviser with a background as a real estate entrepreneur. The action came two days after 11 consumer advocates and academics held a telephone conference with media representatives to voice concern over the cancellation of the only two Consumer Advisory Board meetings scheduled for 2018.
Although Mulvaney often attacked the consumer bureau before becoming its acting director, he has dismissed claims that he now is “gutting” the federal watchdog from within as a false narrative repeated by those who can’t accept Donald Trump’s presidency.
“Yes, I mean to change the bureau. That’s what happens when a new administration appoints new leadership,” Mulvaney wrote in February on USA TODAY’s editorial page. “And we’re looking for a lighter regulatory hand: bringing common sense and balance to government regulation is a central tenet of this administration.”
Mick Mulvaney, appointed by President Trump, promised to shrink the CFPB’s mandate.