House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters has introduced the “Consumers First Act” (to be designated H.R. 1500), a modified version of a bill she introduced in the last session of Congress when Mr. Mulvaney was still serving as CFPB Acting Director.

The bill calls on the CFPB to “promptly reverse all anti-consumer actions taken during Mr. Mulvaney’s tenure, including the actions identified by this legislation to ensure that the agency is fully complying with its statutory purpose, objectives, and functions to protect all consumers, including communities of color and vulnerable populations.”

Section 2 of the bill, entitled “Findings; Sense of Congress,” is essentially an attack on President Trump’s appointment of Mr. Mulvaney as Acting Director and Mr. Mulvaney’s “misguided actions,” examples of which are listed in the bill.  This section states that while the bill “is a direct response to address many of the misguided decisions that have been orchestrated under Mr. Mulvaney’s leadership at the Consumer Bureau that have been exposed to the public, as of the date of the bill’s introduction….this legislation should not be viewed as an exhaustive list to fix all the damaging actions that may have occurred at this agency since the departure of former Director Cordray in November 2017, particularly since detailed information revealing the full scope, nature, and extent of the current flawed operation of the agency, and the adverse impact resulting from these actions, may not yet be publicly available.”

The bill’s provisions include amendments to the Dodd-Frank Act that would:

  • Replace references to the “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection” with “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” and require the CFPB to refer to itself in any public communication, including on any website, as the “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” or “CFPB”
  • Place limitations on political appointees who serve as CFPB employees
  • Require all consumer complaints to be publicly available on a Bureau website
  • Eliminate the CFPB Director’s ability to limit the powers and duties of the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity as set forth in Dodd-Frank to only those powers and duties delegated by the Director
  • Establish an Office of Students and Young Consumers “which shall work to empower students, young people, and their families to make more informed financial decisions about saving and paying for college, accessing safer and more affordable financial products and services, all matters related to private education loans…, and repaying student loan debt, including private education loans.” The Office would be directed to “assist in all supervisory, enforcement, and regulatory matters of the Bureau related to the functions of the Office.”
  • Establish detailed membership requirements for the CFPB’s advisory groups

While Democratic control of the House creates the possibility for the bill to be passed by the House, there is no realistic likelihood of the bill’s passage by the Senate.

Legislation to change the CFPB’s leadership from a single Director to a five-person, bipartisan commission would be more likely to garner some Republican support, and could provide improved structural stability.  Indeed, any intended continuity that the CFPB Director’s five-year term might provide under the current construct could quickly disappear if the issue of whether the CFPB’s structure is constitutional reaches the Supreme Court and the Republican presidential candidate loses in 2020.  If the Supreme Court were to agree with the Department of Justice that the current structure is unconstitutional and rule that the proper remedy is to make the Director removable at will, a Democratic president would be free to replace Director Kraninger well before the end of her five-year term.

A note to our blog readers:  Tim Jenkins is a member of Ballard Spahr’s new federal lobbying and government relations team in Washington, D.C.  The team has decades of experience lobbying the Congress, White House, and Executive Branch, with a focus on financial services issues.  Federal lobbying team members will be regular contributors to the Consumer Finance Monitor, addressing policy developments that affect the consumer financial services industry.