On November 28, a federal judge ruled against Leandra English, former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray's pick to be the bureau's interim director. English had filed a lawsuit to stop Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's pick for the job, from assuming the role.
The high drama kicked off last Friday during the Thanksgiving weekend, when Cordray announced it would be his last day, and that he was naming his chief of staff as deputy director. Since then, because of two conflicting laws governing how to fill the vacancy, it was unclear who was actually in charge. Mulvaney showed up on Monday, occupied Cordray's old office, and began work. English emailed the staff, but reportedly spent the day on Capitol Hill.
Mulvaney held a 20-minute press conference yesterday afternoon from the bureau, and took quite a few questions. He made it clear he intended to come to work until the President or a judge said otherwise.
Yesterday, Judge Timothy Berry of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia settled the matter; he denied Leandra English's request for a restraining order to bar Mulvaney from serving as the CFPB’s acting director.
Now Mulvaney is free to do as he described in the press briefing - he will spend three days a week at the CFPB and three days a week at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), his "full time" job. He acknowledged that added up to more than a regular workweek, but that he was perfectly prepared to do it as long as he is needed.
He also promised that a CFPB under his leadership will look very different than a CFPB under Cordray's leadership. While he didn't spell out specifics, he said he is in the process of receiving briefings on enforcement actions and regulations that are in play. And he has imposed a 30 day hold on, basically, any new activity. He said he was impressed with the professionalism of those he has met so far at the CFPB, and he imagined that they appreciated his candor in expressing his intentions.
Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who imagined and created the CFPB, is not happy. On Monday she submitted a letter to the White House asking a litany of detailed questions about how Mulvaney will be balancing his two jobs, what OMB employees - if any - will support him, and whether anyone has checked the ethics-related boxes. An excerpt:
- Will Mr. Mulvaney maintain offices at both the CFPB and OMB?
- Will limitations be placed on where Mr. Mulvaney conducts work-related activities for the CFPB and for OMB?
- Will Mr. Mulvaney use different government-issued e-mail accounts for his work at OMB and his work at the CFPB?
- Has Mr. Mulvaney been issued an e-mail account for his work at the CFPB?
- How is Mr. Mulvaney currently communicating with CFPB officials and others for CFPB-related business?
- How did Mr. Mulvaney communicate with CFPB officials and others for CFPBrelated business between November 24 and today?
- Does Mr. Mulvaney have separate mobile devices to handle phone calls, email, and other communications for his CFPB and OMB roles?
- What controls are in place to monitor the communications of Mr. Mulvaney ensure a separation of CFPB- and OMB-related business, and to ensure that communications are properly categorized into CFPB- and OMB-related matters?
- Will Mr. Mulvaney's staff use different government-issued e-mail accounts for their work at OMB and his work at the CFPB?
- Which members of Mr. Mulvaney's staff have been issued e-mail accounts for their work at the CFPB?
- How are members of Mr. Mulvaney's staff currently communicating with CFPB officials and other for CFPB-related business?
- Do these staff have separate mobile devices to handle phone calls, email, and other communications for his CFPB and OMB roles?
- What controls are in place to monitor Mr. Mulvaney's staff to ensure a separation of communications for CFPB- and OMB-related business, and to ensure that communications are properly categorized into CFPB- and OMB-related matters?
- The CFPB, on a monthly basis, releases the Director's calendar, providing transparency on who the Director meets with on important issues. Will Mr. Mulvaney continue to follow this practice? If so, how will he determine which matters appear on the CFPB calendar? Will he also include all calendar meetings that he takes as OMB Director where issues related to the CFPB are discussed?
I get the politics. And I get that tracking email accounts, who meets with whom, and who works where and is paid by whom is important in a democracy. And, as a business person (and a taxpayer), I am exhausted by the implications of this list of questions.
Meanwhile, clearly, a debt collection Notice of Proposed Rulemaking doesn't seem so imminent as it did a few weeks ago.
And one more meanwhile... here is the fresh brand-spanking new Twitter page for Mick Mulvaney, Acting Director of the CFPB. With just one tweet so far. I feel like I've gotten in on the ground floor.