Do Mulvaney’s Reasons for Firing the Advisory Boards Add Up?

by Jeff Sovern

Kate Berry at the American Banker reports on Mulvaney's response to questions about why he fired the advisory board members.  The headline reads Mulvaney's defense of CFPB board upheaval: I'm trying to fix leaks. The headline is puzzling, because the Consumer Advisory Board never met with Mulvaney, so it's hard to know what the board members could have leaked.  Mulvaney's staff has not hesitated to smear the board members, so maybe this is more of that, but it sure would be interesting to know what information has leaked that the board members were privy to. Other reasons given in the article are that the three advisory boards were too big, with a combined 60 members. Except that the boards never met together, to the best of my knowledge, so that we're really talking about three groups with individual memberships considerably smaller than 60.  That compares interestingly to two organizations on which Mulvaney has served in the past: the House of Representatives, with 435 members, and the House Financial Services Committee, which currently has 59 members, by my count.   

Here's a quote from the article discussing another reason Mulvaney gave:

"I actually got feedback from people saying, you know what, these groups are too big, they're not comfortable being candid, and they would actually like some private meetings," he said. (Meetings of the Consumer Advisory Board typically have included an hourlong public hearing at the outset, followed by a longer portion of the meeting held in private.)

For criticism from industry folks of the practice of having such closed sessions, see here and here. For criticism from House Financial Services Chair Jeb Hensarling of closed meetings, see here.  In fact, I had thought, perhaps incorrectly, that the CFPB had ended the practice of closed sessions.  How odd to see a purported champion of accountability calling for secret sessions. Could it be that under Mr. Mulvaney's predecessor the Bureau was more accountable?  Besides, why would the size of the boards prevent Mulvaney from meeting privately with whomever he chooses, including members of the boards?

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