Mulvaney to Banks: Stop My Organization, Please

April 27, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

It’s not every day that you hear a government official begging to be thwarted. It’s perhaps even less often that you hear that government official detail how to do it. For banks, mobile bank operations and even mobile payments firms, the secret is simple, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s acting director Mick Mulvaney: start your lobbying.

Mulvaney made it clear that Washington runs on money, especially the money paid to lobbyists, when he was at the American Bankers Association conference recently. He was actually quoted by CNBC here, noting that lobbyists who didn’t give his campaign money would never get a meeting, but those who did had a much better chance of getting in to see him. More specifically, he said “If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions.”

Given that Mulvaney landed $63,000 from payday lenders in his lawmaking days, the pronouncement isn’t such a shock. It’s one for the cynics, meanwhile, to note that Mulvaney was also well-known for defanging CFPB efforts to pursue payday lenders for their various practices.

Mulvaney is also a noted critic of the organization he’s directing right now, and actually went so far as to call for Federal Reserve funding to the CFPB to dry up outright, which would more directly connect the CFPB to lawmakers. He’s also been working to directly defang his own operations, cutting public access to a database containing collected consumer complaints and working to rebrand the organization the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

Hearing the director of a government organization so zealously pursue measures to get his own operation shut down is disconcerting at best. While it’s hard not to applaud the savings such a measure would bring, it’s worth wondering if this is the organization to shut down. Consumers are likely glad to have an actual bureau devoted to their financial protection, and the notion of having that protection peeled away under the strength of lobbyist dollars—which those consumers likely couldn’t pony up in any quantity—is probably unnerving.

This is a dangerous move undertaken here, one with potential risk and reward alike. It must be undertaken carefully, if at all, lest the potential dangers outstrip the possible gain.