by Jeff Sovern
On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee will hear from CFPB Interim Chief Mick Mulvaney about the CFPB. Here are some questions I hope get asked of Mulvaney, in no particular order:
Wells Fargo. You have said that complaints to the CFPB should guide your actions. It appears from the public database that the Bureau received relatively few complaints about the Wells Fargo unauthorized account scandal in which Wells opened 3.5 million accounts and in which the Bureau imposed a $100 million fine. Would you have brought that case? Would you bring a similar case today? If so, then when will you not prioritize according to the complaints you receive.
Enforcement. You have said that in some circumstances the Bureau will act vigorously to enforce the law. You have not announced any new enforcement actions. If the Bureau had kept up the pace of bringing new enforcement actions it set in 2016, the Bureau would have brought 15 or more enforcement cases during your tenure. Do you believe that you are vigorously enforcing the law? When, if ever, should we expect you to bring an enforcement case?
Golden Valley. You dismissed the Golden Valley payday lending case. Your spokesperson initially announced that that decision was made by "professional career staff.” Is that true or were you involved in that decision? If it is not true, why was it announced? Is it true, as reported, that "the entire career enforcement staff wanted to press ahead?” According to the CFPB announcement about the case, Golden Valley charged up to 950% interest. Media reports indicate that consumers were not aware that they would be charged that much. Do you believe lenders should be able to charge consumers 950% interest without consumers understanding that they will be charged that much? Recently, organized crime members were arrested for charging 200% interest. How can you reconcile that with your decision to drop the Golden Valley case?
Quantitative Data. You have said "quantitative analysis should drive our decisions." You have also limited Bureau access to data and withdrawn a request to OMB–essentially, you–to survey consumers. Are there any data-gathering efforts that you have curtailed that have not been reported in the media? Are there any new data-gathering efforts that you have approved? How can the Bureau decisions be guided by quantitative analysis if the Bureau doesn't have access to data?
Complaint Database. Will you reduce public access to the complaint database?
Announcement Tagline. The Bureau's tagline on announcements used to say that the Bureau enforced rules fairly. Why did you eliminate the word "fairly?"
Payday Lending Rule. You have said you may reconsider the payday lending rule. What is the status of that potential reconsideration? Will you make any changes in the rule?
Debt Collection Rule. What is the status of the potential debt collection rule?
Time. You also serve as head of OMB. How many hours are you at the Bureau's offices or otherwise working on Bureau matters?
UDAAP. The Dodd-Frank Act, in section 1021, lists as an objective for the Bureau that "consumers are protected from unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices and from discrimination." What have you done to further that objective?
Independence. Section 1011 of the Dodd-Frank Act describes the Bureau as "independent." You report to the president in your job as chief of OMB, and you have said the CFPB director should answer to the president. In your role as CFPB interim director, are you acting independently of the president and do you answer to the president? The president has tweeted about the Wells Fargo case. Has he given you any orders concerning that case or any other matter before the CFPB?
Guidance. Will you rescind any Bureau guidance bulletins? If you find a company acting in violation of a guidance document, will you enforce the guidance document?
Public Availability. Former Director Cordray regularly held public events at which members of the public could hear his views on Bureau matters and could address statements to him. Will you hold such events?
Consumer and Industry Advocates. How often do you meet with consumer advocates? With representatives of the industry?
UPDATE: An additional question: how many times have CFPB staff brought you a potential enforcement case that you refused to pursue?