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Entire operation of federal consumer regulator under review

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

It’s 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 and role 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 today 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.

Cordray and the CFPB got high praise from Democrats, the White House and consumer advocacy groups, but at the same time made enemies with Republicans in Congress, who 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 today was broad, aimed at the entire operations of the bureau.

Mulvaney has already announced the bureau will take a second look at its payday lending rules, which were finalized late last year under Cordray. He has also called for a limit to how much personal information on consumers the bureau collects as part of its operations, which critics have said has stymied the bureau’s ability do its job.

The CFPB did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what areas of the CFPB are now under review. Mulvaney’s staff in the White House also did not respond to a request for comment.

While the CFPB’s director has broad powers on what he or she chooses to enforce or prioritize, it could take years for a Trump-controlled CFPB to undo the regulations it put in place under the Obama administration. The CFPB started work on the payday lending rules back in 2012.

This would not be the first federal agency that has seen a dramatic change in its direction under the Trump administration. The Environmental Protection Agency, under Scott Pruitt, has reshuffled its priorities away from issues like climate change. The Federal Communications Commission late last year voted to repeal its net neutrality rules that the FCC had put into place under the Obama administration.

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