Consumer Bureau’s Chief Gives Big Raises, Even as He Criticizes Spending

Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has complained that the regulator engages in “wasteful spending” and needs to be slimmed down. To underscore the point, he submitted a quarterly budget request recently that was a nice round number: $0.

That attitude, though, apparently didn’t apply to two of his recent hires.

Mr. Mulvaney appointed two senior staff members who are paid salaries of more than $230,000, amounts that are far above what they had been earning in their previous government jobs in Washington, according to agency documents obtained by The New York Times through a public records request.

The Trump administration and Republican lawmakers have been trying to defang the agency, which they view as overly tough on the finance industry. One weapon they have tried to employ — so far, unsuccessfully — is to reduce the amount of money the agency can pay employees.

But Mr. Mulvaney was willing to shell out top dollar for his highest-ranking appointees.

When Mr. Mulvaney hired Kirsten Sutton in January to be the agency’s chief of staff, he agreed to pay her $259,500 a year, according to the documents obtained by The Times. Her salary is the highest allowed under the consumer bureau’s pay scale. (The hiring documents identify her as Kirsten Mork, but professionally, she uses the surname Sutton.)

That salary represents a raise of more than 50 percent from what Ms. Sutton earned in her previous job working for one of the C.F.P.B.’s fiercest critics, Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Last year, as the committee’s staff director, she earned a salary of about $170,000, according to data from LegiStorm, which tracks congressional salaries.

Ms. Sutton is making 22 percent more than her predecessor, Leandra English, who earned $212,324 as chief of staff, according to the office of Senator Ron Johnson. Mr. Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, had requested Ms. English’s pay records as part of an inquiry into the C.F.P.B.’s hiring practices.

Like Ms. Sutton, Brian Johnson, another new deputy, previously worked on the House Financial Services Committee. In his most recent job there, as policy director, he earned about $170,000 a year, according to LegiStorm.

When he agreed to join the C.F.P.B. as a senior adviser, Mr. Johnson was sent a letter from a federal human resources employee. “Welcome and congratulations,” said the Dec. 1 letter, which set his starting salary at $220,000.

Before Mr. Johnson’s first paycheck even arrived, his salary already had been raised. In late December, Mr. Mulvaney signed paperwork that awarded Mr. Johnson a salary of $239,595. The document didn’t say why Mr. Johnson’s salary had gone up by $19,000, and a C.F.P.B. spokeswoman declined to comment on the increase.

In the latest White House budget proposal that Mr. Mulvaney’s office prepared, the Trump administration blasted the consumer bureau for its history of “poor financial and personnel management decisions.” It also asked Congress to curb the agency’s authority and cap its 2019 budget.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mulvaney is starving the bureau of cash. He requested $0 last quarter from the Federal Reserve, which funds the bureau, and instead drew on a $177 million reserve fund the agency had stockpiled.

(Excerpted from New York Times 4/5/18)