The latest debacle in the Trump White House to distract the news media from the drip-drip of the Mueller investigation involves two government executives showing up on the same day to start the same job – Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). One of the executives was appointed by the outgoing director; the other was appointed by President Trump, without the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.
That drama came to a head late today when a U.S. District Court Judge in Washington, D.C., another Trump appointee, denied an attempt to block President Trump from appointing his close ally, and big bank insider Mick Mulvaney to head this critical agency. With Mulvaney’s appointment, President Trump has signaled the death of the CFPB, which is devastating news for the American consumer.
If the average American doesn’t know much about the CFPB, they should. The agency was created as an independent government regulatory agency after the economic collapse of 2008 to ensure regular people and small businesses were protected from the overreach of the big banks, whose excesses and greed caused the loss of over $10 trillion dollars in American wealth, devastating Main Street and families across the country.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the CFPB is tasked with the responsibility to “promote fairness and transparency for mortgages, credit cards and other consumer financial products and services.” In other words, it’s the CFPB that throws the yellow flag when banks go too far and harm consumers with predatory practices.
It was the CFPB who this summer took a stand for the little guy, announcing a new rule banning those mandatory arbitration clauses hidden in the pages of fine print the banks send you with credit cards, or mortgages. These clauses strip you of your right to sue in court, your right to a jury of your peers, and your right to pursue class actions when a bank’s misconduct affects thousands of others. These clauses also require you to travel from wherever you live to have your dispute heard in the bank’s chosen location and decided by the bank’s chosen “deciders”.
It was the CFPB who finally stood up for consumers and declared this practice fundamentally unfair. While the Senate (on a party-line vote) recently rescinded that rule, the CFPB’s continued pursuit of its mission to promote fairness and standards that protect everyday Americans is critical to stopping the continued erosion of our constitutional rights.
Candidate Trump was more than willing to bash Wall Street and the big banks on the campaign trail, when it suited his objective of fooling his followers into believing he was standing up for them. Who can forget Trump exclaiming that Hillary Clinton was “owned by Wall Street”, that Wall Street was “getting away with murder” and that one of the ways a President Trump was going to “Make American Great Again” was to give the government back to the people by breaking up the big banks and holding them accountable? That President Trump never made it to the Inauguration.
President Trump’s appointment of Mulvaney reveals that all of his bravado about taking on the big banks was nothing more than farce. Mulvaney is on record as a staunch opponent of the CFPB. As a congressman, Mulvaney called the CFPB a “sick, sad joke” and even sponsored a bill to eliminate it. His first action as Acting Director of the CFPB was to freeze all enforcement actions and stop the CFPB from doing its duties under the law. As Elizabeth Warren so aptly tweeted, President Trump’s appointment of Mulvaney to this critical consumer watchdog post was “a giant middle finger to consumers.” In short, the Mulvaney appointment is the epitome of appointing a fox to guard the hen house.
Make no mistake, Mulvaney taking over the post signals a somber day for consumers and yet another blow to individual rights. Big bankers everywhere, however, are likely celebrating yet another victory over the average American and the U.S. Constitution.