(Bloomberg) -- Mick Mulvaney is shaking things up at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
In an email sent Wednesday to the watchdog’s employees, Mulvaney announced he was reorganizing a number of its divisions and appointing Republicans to senior roles as part of an effort to make the regulator more efficient, effective and accountable. But as the details started to leak out, they were blasted by liberal interest groups and Democrat lawmakers who argued they would undermine consumer protections.
The revamp is among Mulvaney’s most significant changes since taking over as acting CFPB director in November. The latest moves include folding the Office of Students and Young Consumers, which advises borrowers on saving and paying for college, into the Office of Financial Education, the email shows.
Mulvaney also announced that he was creating an Office of Cost Benefit Analysis. The decision indicates he plans to subject potential policies to much more rigorous scrutiny of whether the benefits of new regulations will outweigh the possible harm done to corporations and economic growth. Republican lawmakers have long argued that federal agencies don’t do enough to weigh the consequences of their actions.
Reining in the CFPB -- which oversees mortgages, credit cards and other financial products -- is central to President Donald Trump’s deregulatory agenda. Trump’s decision to install his budget director atop the CFPB has fueled suspicions for months among Democrats that it will be gutted, as Mulvaney once called the watchdog a “sick” joke.
Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, said Mulvaney is hurting consumers and making it harder for CFPB employees to do their jobs.
“Mick Mulvaney has defaulted on his obligation to help the thousands of Americans who are struggling with unfair student loans,” Ohio’s Brown said in a Wednesday statement. “The president should quickly nominate a director with bipartisan support and a track record of strong consumer advocacy.”
CFPB spokesman John Czwartacki called the changes announced Wednesday “modest” and said they would have no impact on agency’s efforts to look out for borrowers.
The regulator is “not shutting down its efforts to protect and inform students,” he said in a statement. “The office in question is not being shuttered. Its work continues, personnel are all on the job and working on the same material as before.”
Mulvaney, who was a GOP congressman from South Carolina before joining the Trump administration, also announced several new political appointees who will be paired with career staff.
Thomas Pahl, who worked at the CFPB several years ago before moving to the Federal Trade Commission, will rejoin the agency as an adviser in its research and regulation functions. Anthony Welcher, appointed by President George W. Bush to the staff of the Export-Import Bank, will run external affairs.
Mulvaney is also rebranding some divisions, changing the name of the Office of Financial Empowerment to the Office of Community Affairs, for example. Other symbolic tweaks he’s made recently include referring to the agency as the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection -- instead of CFPB -- as that’s what is specified in the Dodd-Frank Act.
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