Mick Mulvaney argues that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is “trampling on capitalism” – a problem he has promised to fix immediately.
During his first day as the watchdog agency’s acting director on Monday, Mulvaney announced a 30-day freeze on the new regulations so he can ensure they don’t ‘suffocate’ loans. Mulvaney said he would soon be briefed on the roughly 100 lawsuits the agency is involved in.
“Anything discretionary, we suspend for 30 days,” Mulvaney told reporters.
Mulvaney has long been a harsh critic of the CFPB. Now his distaste for the office raises questions about what will happen to the many investigations and lawsuits he has launched against companies and banks.
Court documents and regulatory filings show that these purposes include Wells Fargo (online real estate database )Zillow ( and student loan processor Heartland Campus Solutions. The CFPB is also likely to investigate other companies that have not yet disclosed the investigations. )
“Rumors that I’m going to set the place on fire, blow it up or lock the doors are completely untrue,” Mulvaney said.
However, Mulvaney, who as a lawmaker voted to abolish the CFPB altogether, said President Trump wanted him to “fix” the CFPB because the previous administration “went too far.”
Trump tweeted his desire to rein in the CFPB, calling the agency a “disaster” that has “devastated” banks and prevented them from “properly serving the public.” It’s part of Trump’s push to broadly cut regulations.
“It’s very clear that the financial sector is the biggest winner from a weakened CFPB and consumers are the losers,” said Patricia McCoy, a Boston College law professor and former CFPB official.
It was not entirely clear on Monday who was in charge of the CFPB. Mulvaney said he was calling the shots. But he also faces a lawsuit from Leandra English, who was appointed acting manager on Friday by the outgoing manager.
But in the end, Trump will end up appointing a permanent director. Under Mulvaney or another Trump-appointed official, “the CFPB’s enforcement program will shrink significantly,” Isaac Boltansky, policy officer at Compass Point Research and Trading, wrote in a report released Monday.
Quyen Truong, the CFPB’s former deputy general counsel, expects the office “not to pursue the kind of aggressive claims it has to this day.”
The CFPB made a name for themselves by taking on Wells Fargo last year. The agency, along with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Los Angeles City Attorney, fined Wells Fargo $185 million for open millions of fakes bank accounts and credit cards.
Mulvaney, who questioned why the CFPB hadn’t found the Wells Fargo fiasco sooner, reiterated on Monday that he was “disturbed” by the scandal at the bank.
Earlier this month, Wells Fargo said the CFPB had launched an investigation into its mortgage business. Wells Fargo admitted that some borrowers were wrongly charged fees for missing a deadline to lock in promised interest rates – even when the delays were the bank’s fault.
Separately, Wells Fargo ( said the CFPB is investigating whether customers were harmed by the freezing and closing of the bank’s deposit accounts after Wells Fargo detected suspected fraudulent activity. )
The CFPB could also look into Wells Fargo car credit problems. Wells Fargo said it billed up to 570,000 customers since 2012 for car insurance they didn’t need.
Wells Fargo declined to comment on the CFPB leadership changes.
The CFPB opened an investigation in 2015 into Zillow’s ( advertising practices. The regulator is studying a “co-marketing” program at Zillow that allows lenders and real estate agents to share advertising costs on the site. )
Zillow said the CFPB is investigating potential violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which prohibits bribes in exchange for business referrals.
Zillow is in talks with the CFPB about a possible settlement, even though it believes its practices are “lawful,” company executives said in a recent conference call.
Heartland Campus Solutions
On November 16, the CFPB sued Heartland Campus Solutions, claiming the company failed to comply with a CFPB investigation. The CFPB said in court documents it was investigating whether Heartland had engaged in illegal practices related to servicing student loans.
Global Payments (owner of Heartland, did not respond to a request for comment. )
Debt Relief Freedom
On November 8, the CFPB sued Freedom Debt Relief, the largest US provider of debt settlement services, and its co-CEO Andrew Housser. The CFPB alleged that Freedom Debt Relief charged consumers without settling their debts and charged misleading fees.
Freedom Debt Relief said in a statement that its practices are “legally compliant, highly ethical and responsive to the needs of our clients.” The company said it will “vigorously contest” the lawsuit.
The CFPB alleges Think Finance, a fintech company, tricked customers into paying debts they didn’t legally owe. The CFPB filed a lawsuit on Nov. 15 alleging that Think Finance “made misleading claims and unlawfully withdrew money from consumers’ bank accounts.”
Think Finance did not respond to a request for comment.
— CNNMoney’s Allie Malloy and Nathaniel Meyersohn contributed to this report.
CNN Money (New York) First published November 27, 2017: 5:38 p.m. ET