In the 135 days since the Trump administration took control of the nation’s consumer watchdog agency, it has not recorded a single enforcement action against banks, credit card companies, debt collectors or any finance companies whatsoever.
That’s likely no fluke: Mick Mulvaney, appointed acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in late November, promised to shrink the bureau’s mandate and take a much softer approach to enforcement, and records reviewed by The Associated Press indicate he has kept his word.
A review of a CFPB database obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information request shows that the bureau issued an average of two to four enforcement actions a month under former Director Richard Cordray, President Obama’s appointee. But the database shows zero enforcement actions have been taken since Nov. 21, 2017, three days before Cordray resigned.
Before Mulvaney, the bureau used enforcement actions to extract billions of dollars in relief for consumers from financial companies and to stop companies from doing harm. Bank of America was ordered to return $727 million to consumers for deceptive credit card practices in 2015 — the largest award in the bureau’s history — but the CFPB has issued dozens of smaller actions to get relief for student borrowers, victims of debt collection companies and bank customers.
In the roughly seven years it has been in existence, the bureau has returned $3.97 billion in cash back to American consumers through enforcement actions and an additional $7.93 billion in other types of relief, such as lower loan balances or debt relief, based on the CFPB’s records. The bureau estimates roughly one of every 10 Americans has received some sort of reimbursement or relief due to the bureau’s enforcement work since it was created.
Despite that direct relief to consumers, Republicans — including Mulvaney when he was representing South Carolina in Congress — accused the bureau of overreach. Mulvaney once called the bureau a “sick, sad joke” of an agency.
While consumer advocates expected fewer enforcement actions under a more business-friendly Trump administration, the fact that the database indicates they have stopped entirely raises concern that consumers have been left vulnerable. There were some periods under the Obama administration where bureau enforcement actions slowed, but those appear largely tied to the fact the agency was just getting underway. This is the longest stretch without enforcement actions in the CFPB’s history.
“Enforcement is very important,” said Lauren Saunders, associate director at the National Consumer Law Center, a consumer advocacy organization and a critic of Mulvaney. “If a company violates the law, it needs to be held accountable and called out instead of being quietly admonished through supervision.”
(Excerpted from Associated Press 4/10/18)