The Democratic attorneys general of 15 states and the District of Columbia have sent a letter to President Trump in which they express their support for the CFPB’s consumer protection mission and criticize the President’s appointment of Mick Mulvaney as CFPB Acting Director. The 15 states are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. In particular, the AGs contend that various statements made by Mr. Mulvaney about the CFPB “are categorically false, and should disqualify Mr. Mulvaney from leading the agency, even on an acting basis.”
Since the AGs’ presumably realize that their criticism is unlikely to cause President Trump to reconsider his appointment of Mr. Mulvaney, it would appear that the letter’s primary purpose is “saber rattling” by the AGs. While providing examples of various enforcement matters on which state AGs have worked jointly with the CFPB, the AGs highlight their own “express statutory authority to enforce federal consumer protection laws, as well as the consumer protection laws of our respective states.” The AGs state that they “will continue to enforce those laws vigorously regardless of changes to the CFPB’s leadership or agenda. As attorneys general, we retain broad authority to investigate and prosecute those individuals or companies that deceive, scam, or otherwise harm consumers.”
In addition to various federal consumer protection statutes that give direct enforcement authority to state AGs or regulators, Section 1042 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act authorizes state AGs and regulators to bring civil actions to enforce the provisions of the CFPA, most notably its prohibition of unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices. A state AG or regulator, before filing a lawsuit using his or her Section 1042 authority, must notify the CFPB and Section 1042 allows the CFPB to intervene as a party and remove an action filed in state court to federal court. (AGs and regulators in several of the states joining in the letter to President Trump have already filed lawsuits using their Section 1042 authority.)
On January 11, 2018, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET, Ballard Spahr attorneys will hold a webinar: Who Will Fill the Void Left Behind by the CFPB? Click here to register.
The AGs warn that “if incoming CFPB leadership prevents the agency’s professional staff from aggressively pursuing consumer abuse and financial misconduct, we will redouble our efforts at the state level to root out such misconduct and hold those responsible to account.” They further state that “regardless of the future direction or leadership of the CFPB, we as state attorneys general will vigorously enforce state and federal laws to ensure fairness and deter fraud.” It is also important to note that CFPB staff, who may feel handcuffed by Mr. Mulvaney, can share information with sympathetic state AGs.