Mick Mulvaney's CFPB gives up on Equifax probe

A credit breach left millions of people exposed — and Mulvaney gives up his investigation!

By Jeremy Binckes

Published February 5, 2018 9:38AM (EST)

 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

When Mick Mulvaney was named to be head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, watchdogs and bureau insiders were worried that Mulvaney's intent was to gut the agency tasked with investigating malfeasance by financial institutions. He's proving them right.

Most recently, the Mulvaney-led group may be ending its investigation into Equifax, the important credit rating firm from which 143 million people's records were breached. Per Reuters:

Three sources say, though, Mulvaney, the new CFPB chief, has not ordered subpoenas against Equifax or sought sworn testimony from executives, routine steps when launching a full-scale probe. Meanwhile the CFPB has shelved plans for on-the-ground tests of how Equifax protects data, an idea backed by Cordray.

The CFPB also recently rebuffed bank regulators at the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency when they offered to help with on-site exams of credit bureaus, said two sources familiar with the matter.

When Mulvaney was appointed to lead the CFPB — he's also the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and having the CFPB led by someone essentially moonlighting as chief shows how much importance the Trump administration places on the position — he said that his goal for the consumer protection watchdog organization was to protect capitalism. Last month, he requested no money whatsoever for the organization, all while changing the mission statement:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by regularly identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations, by making rules more effective, by consistently enforcing federal consumer financial law, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.

Mulvaney has had deep ties to some of the exact firms his agency is supposed to be investigating. However, these apparent conflicts of interest haven't raised alarm bells among Congress or the Trump administration. The Washington Post has more, from a late-January opinion piece:

Last week, without explanation, the bureau withdrew a lawsuit against a group of online payday lenders that were charging interest rates as high as 950 percent. These loans were not just expensive and predatory; they were also, according to the original lawsuit, illegal under many states’ laws and therefore void.

Then this week, the bureau dropped an investigation into an installment lender that was a subject of a ProPublica series documenting questionable lending practices.

Coincidentally, that same company, World Acceptance Corp., donated thousands to Mulvaney’s own congressional campaigns. (The bureau said the determination to drop the probe was made by career staff and that “any suggestion that Acting Director Mulvaney had any role in the decision is simply inaccurate.”)

The Consumer Financial Protection  Bureau has a fox guarding its henhouse.

Jeremy Binckes

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Cfpb Equifax Mick Mulvaney