CFPB Chief Mulvaney Says Days of `Pushing the Envelope' Are Over

(Bloomberg) -- The acting head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau pledged to tone down the agency’s aggressive regulatory and enforcement stance, a posture that has been decried by many of the companies it oversees.

Writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Mick Mulvaney said he would continue to make sure the bureau enforces consumer protection laws. But, he added, it will not assume that “the bad guys” are the financial services firms it supervises -- a belief he attributed to the Democrats who had run the CFPB since it was created in 2010.

“The CFPB has a new mission: We will exercise, with humility and prudence, the almost unparalleled power Congress has bestowed on us,” Mulvaney wrote. “But we go no further. The days of aggressively ‘pushing the envelope’ are over.”

Named by President Donald Trump in November to lead the bureau until a permanent leader can be nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Mulvaney has moved quickly to shift the agency toward being a kinder and gentler regulator. Earlier this month, he announced that a controversial rule governing payday lenders would be re-written. He also declined to request budget money for the second quarter of 2018, saying the bureau would instead spend down reserves.

A former Republican congressman, Mulvaney also serves as the director of Trump’s Office of Management and Budget. He has been a longtime critic of the CFPB, and noted in his op-ed that his predecessor, Richard Cordray, once said that the agency “absolutely” pushed the envelope in enforcement and regulatory matters.

Mulvaney wrote that the agency would do a much better job of measuring the costs and benefits of its rules. He added that regulatory priorities should be driven by data, such as the consumer complaints that come in to the agency. Almost of third of the complaints in 2016 related to debt collection, he said, suggesting that could now be a focus. Other areas, such as pre-paid cards and payday lenders that the agency targeted under Cordray, drew far fewer grievances, he said.

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