February 25, 2020

February 25, 2020

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February 24, 2020

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Mulvaney Outlines “New Mission” for the CFPB in Email to Bureau Staff

Yesterday afternoon, Acting Director Mulvaney sent an email to the entire CFPB staff in which he drew a sharp contrast with the views of his predecessor, Director Richard Cordray, and outlined a new direction for the Bureau.

In explaining how “things would be different” at the Bureau, Acting Director Mulvaney  criticized the agency’s aggressive approach under former CFPB Director Richard Cordray, citing a statement Mulvaney attributed to the former Director that “[p]ushing the envelope is a loaded phrase, but that’s absolutely what we did.” Acting Director Mulvaney explained, “that entire governing philosophy of pushing the envelope frightens me a little.” Instead, he stated that the Bureau must work for everyone, including both consumers and providers of financial services.

With these considerations in mind, Acting Director Mulvaney explained that the Bureau will begin reviewing everything that it does, “from investigations to lawsuits and everything in between.” As part of this review:

  • Enforcement will focus on quantifiable and unavoidable harm, and the Bureau “won’t go looking for excuses to bring lawsuits.”
  • The Bureau will engage in formal rulemaking where appropriate but will avoid “regulation by enforcement.”
  • The Bureau will have new priorities. Acting Director Mulvaney noted that a third of complaints received by the Bureau relate to debt collection, while prepaid cards and payday lending – areas in which the Bureau has recently finalized regulations – account for relatively few complaints.
  • The Bureau will employ more quantitative analysis and consideration of measurable costs and benefits.

Acting Director Mulvaney closed by stating:

CFPB has a new “mission”: we will exercise, with humility and prudence, the almost unparalleled power given to us to faithfully enforce the law in furtherance of the mandate given to us by Congress. But we go no further. Simply put, the days of aggressively “pushing the envelope” of the law in the name of the “mission” are over.

This new approach will be hailed as welcome news by the consumer financial services providers that have found themselves in the Bureau’s crosshairs – and criticized by those consumer advocates who will see this as a retreat from Director Cordray’s aggressive approach.

© 2020 Covington & Burling LLP


About this Author

Sam Adriance, Data privacy Attorney, Covington

Sam Adriance assists clients with financial regulatory and data protection issues, including financial privacy, consumer financial services, safety and soundness, and anti-money laundering. He assists banks, fintech companies, payment processors, credit reporting agencies, and other non-bank financial institutions both in a wide variety of regulatory matters and high-stakes government investigations brought by the DOJ, CFPB, FTC, and prudential banking regulators.