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Consumer protection?
INDUSTRY FIRST

Mick Mulvaney’s full speech to bankers about “burning down” consumer protection

By Heather Timmons

As a legislator, Mick Mulvaney called the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) a “sick, sad, joke.” Now that he’s the head of the CFPB, he’s been undercutting the agency—while US consumers face a barrage of financial frauds, debt collection frauds, and unscrupulous lending practices.

The CFPB was designed to help everyday people make financial decisions and protect them from predatory companies after the 2008 financial crisis. But in a speech to an American Bankers Association conference in Washington DC yesterday, Mulvaney’s message was about creating an agency that works with the financial services industry, at one point comparing his bureau to the bank-backing Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Mulvaney’s remarks delighted the 1,300 bankers and lawyers in the audience, who laughed at his joke about burning the CFPB headquarters down and applauded his disdain for the agency’s practice of making consumer complaints about financial services companies public. The meeting comes on the ten year anniversary of the banking crisis that set off a global recession.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Mulvaney was asking lobbyists for money to curtail the agency, however a CFPB transcript of his speech suggests that Mulvaney’s even broader point was to push government engagement of all kinds with the industry.

Throughout, Mulvaney’s remarks reveal a disturbing scorn for his own bureau’s mission and the consumers it was founded to protect.

Doesn’t know the CFPB’s mission

So to the more substantive things, we turn then to the purpose of the Bureau, which at some point I had highlighted in the book and then forgot to mark, but there is a specific list of things that we are supposed to do…If we do it really well, if I can find the page that I marked—this is what I get for not giving a speech. Anyway, there’s a whole long list of what we’re supposed to do, right?

Jokes about burning down the headquarters

People wondered when I got—when I took the job if I was going to try and shut the place down, and I told them no, because I can’t. If you are going to be a good bureaucrat—

[Laughter.]

Somebody asked me was I going to burn the place down. If you’ve seen the building, the building, you couldn’t burn the building down if you tried. It’s one of those brutalist architectures. There’s not anything to burn in the building, but—

[Laughter.]

Wants to make consumer complaints private

…you all may be familiar with our Consumer Database that we have, and it says in here, “The Director shall establish a unit whose function shall include”—and for the lawyers, you all know what this “shall” means. It means we have to do it. —shall include a toll-free number, a website, a database, utilizing an existing database to facilitate centralized collection of monitoring response to consumer complaints. We have to do that, okay? And we will. We are going to maintain the Consumer Database. It is mandated by law.

I don’t see anything in h ere that I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government. I don’t see anything in here that says that I have to make all of those public.

[Applause.]

Says it will no longer be an enforcement bureau

What are we not going to do? Obviously, we are not going to do stuff that’s not in the law. I’ve only got a few minutes left so I won’t talk too much about regulation by enforcement, but the short version is we’re not doing it anymore. I don’t think it’s fair.

[Applause.]

Forecasts the CFPB will be like the FDIC

At the end of the day, I think we are actually going to get a better Bureau by what we’re doing. We are turning the Bureau into what I hope is—here’s the comparison I make. No one looks at the SEC and says, “Oh, they’re just the brainchild of so-and-so, and they’re all controlled by this ideology.” No one says that about the FDIC. No one says that about the OCC. They say it about us. They do. We’re not in the same class as those regulators yet. We’re Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild, and we have to get away from that. If we’re going to be taken seriously by the industry, if we’re going to say something—You know what? That makes sense. There’s some credibility behind that—then we have to be a real bureaucracy.

[Applause.]

Suggests visitors to DC bring cash

This is the part reported on earlier by the Times.

Thank you for doing this. Thank you for coming to Washington, D.C. I never get tired of telling people it does count. I’ll close with this. This has nothing to do—I’m going to put my old Congressional hat on for a second. Many of you who have heard me speak before have heard me say this. What you do here matters. We had a hierarchy in my office, in Congress. If you were a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you were a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you. If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talk to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions.

 

Read the full speech here