Corporate Accountability

Who’s Leading the CFPB? Trump Tees Up Clash Over Acting Director

Richard Cordray named Leandra English, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s chief of staff, as deputy director—putting her in place to become acting director. The White House moved to block the appointment, naming Mick Mulvaney, director of OMB, as the leader of the Obama-era agency.

By C. Ryan Barber

The Trump administration late Friday set up a clash over the leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, installing an acting director hours after Richard Cordray told the agency his chief of staff would assume the role at the moment of his departure.

Cordray named Leandra English as deputy director, setting her up to become acting director after Cordray’s departure. Cordray sent out his resignation letter to staff on Friday, moving up his planned departure a week. His resignation is effective midnight on Friday.

Cordray said in a separate letter to the CFPB on Friday: “In considering how to ensure an orderly succession for this independent agency, I determined that it would be best to avoid leaving this key position filled only in an acting capacity. In consultation over the past few days, I have also come to recognize that appointing the current chief of staff to the deputy director position would minimize operational disruption and provide for a smooth transition given her operational expertise.”

Hours after Cordray’s announcement, President Donald Trump said Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, would serve as acting director of the CFPB.

The White House said in a statement: “The president looks forward to seeing Director Mulvaney take a common sense approach to leading the CFPB’s dedicated staff, an approach that will empower consumers to make their own financial decisions and facilitate investment in our communities. Director Mulvaney will serve as Acting Director until a permanent director is nominated and confirmed.”

The move set up a clash over the leadership of the agency—and a spotlight on language in the Dodd-Frank act and the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. (Affiliate publication Credit Union Times has more here.)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, an architect of the CFPB, tweeted on Friday:

“If there ends up being a dispute about who’s the rightful head of the CFPB, the final say will rest with the courts. And if the courts follow the text, structure, and history of Dodd-Frank, it’s clear what they should say: Leandra English is currently the acting Director of the CFPB,” Brianne Gorod, chief counsel to the Constitutional Accountability Center, wrote late Friday at the blog Take Care.

Credit Union National Association president and chief executive Jim Nussle said in a statement Friday that Cordray’s move highlighted long-standing criticism of the power of the CFPB’s single-director structure. The agency’s structure is the centerpiece of a pending dispute—brought by the residential mortgage company PHH Corp.—that’s in the U.S Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“Director Cordray’s final act illustrates so clearly why a commission overseeing CFPB would be superior to the single director model. With a commission in place there would be no opportunity for a lame duck appointee to select a non-Senate confirmed citizen to lead an agency with such an unaccountable structure governing the entire financial services marketplace,” Nussle said. “A CFPB commission would ensure that leadership at this agency—like so many others—continues without disruption.”