CFPB's Mulvaney Accused of Shunning Outside Advisers' Input

(Bloomberg) -- Members of a panel that advises the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on potential financial-industry abuses are challenging Mick Mulvaney’s decision to scrap an upcoming meeting, calling the move a “troubling sign” of his plans for the regulator.

CFPB informed Consumer Advisory Board members in a memo dated May 30 that it is canceling the meeting scheduled for next Wednesday, and will instead hold two conference calls “to allow you to hear from new leadership about how the bureau will manage the advisory group going forward,” according to a copy obtained by Bloomberg News.

Group members who learned of the cancellation before the memo went out wrote a letter to Mulvaney saying it follows a pattern that suggests he’s not interested in hearing from the panel, which was created by the Dodd-Frank Act to “provide information on emerging practices in the consumer financial products and services industry.” The letter was signed by 15 of the panel’s 25 members, including consumer advocates, academics and former bank executives.

“It follows on your decision to cancel our February meeting, which had been scheduled for months,” the group said in its letter, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg. “The one opportunity we have had to speak to you as a body was a phone call that was scheduled to last one hour but ended up with your speaking with us for less than 20 minutes.”

In a statement Friday, a CFPB spokesperson credited the agency’s advisory boards and councils with providing valuable advice and said the bureau would continue to meet its statutory obligations in that regard.

“It is natural that new leadership would re-evaluate its community and consumer outreach efforts, and that will necessarily include consideration of the timing, frequency, content, and other aspects of the Bureau’s meetings,” the spokesperson said.

Bureau supporters were alarmed by President Donald Trump’s decision to put Mulvaney, who is also heading the White House Office of Management and Budget, in charge of the regulator after Richard Cordray stepped down last year. Those concerns have only grown as Mulvaney has shifted the bureau from an aggressive enforcer to a stance more in line with the Trump administration’s de-regulatory agenda.

Dodd-Frank requires that the advisory group meet with the director at least twice annually and that the bureau reimburse board members for their travel. The bureau said in a memo to board members earlier this year that it isn’t required to reimburse members if meetings are canceled.

The advisory panel members plan to outline the concerns expressed in their letter to Mulvaney during a conference call with reporters on Monday.

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