Battle for Control of Consumer Agency Heads to Court

The battle over who will lead the federal government's top consumer financial watchdog agency is headed to court.

The extraordinary fight, which intensified Sunday night, adds to the uncertainty over the fate of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a regulator created in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of nearly a decade ago. It encapsulates dueling visions of how the U.S. financial system could be regulated, as President Donald Trump moves to loosen regulation created under the Obama administration to rein in the financial industry.

Leandra English, the deputy director of the bureau who was set to become its temporary chief, filed a lawsuit late Sunday to block Trump's choice of someone else from taking control of the agency Monday morning.

Leandra English, deputy director of the bureau, filed a lawsuit late Sunday to block Trump's choice of a temporary chief from taking control of the agency Monday morning.

Trump has been seeking to install his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, as the agency's acting director. The bureau had been a "total disaster" and needed new leadership to "bring it back to life," Trump has said on Twitter. Mulvaney has been openly hostile to the consumer bureau, supporting legislation to eliminate it.

At stake is the immediate future of the consumer bureau — one of the last holdouts, within the federal government, against Trump's efforts to strip away business regulations. While Trump can appoint his own director, confirmation could take months and slow down Republican efforts to defang the agency.

The dispute has elevated English to a national spotlight. Before her appointment, she was a low-profile career civil servant who joined the agency in its infancy and rose steadily through its ranks, serving most recently as its chief of staff.

Under the leadership of Richard Cordray, the departing director, the bureau aggressively used its powers to develop new rules and punish companies that broke existing ones. It targeted abusive debt collectors and bolstered protections for mortgage borrowers. Under Cordray, it won nearly $12 billion in refunds and canceled debts for 29 million consumers.

The current standoff was triggered by the resignation of Cordray, who abruptly stepped down Friday. His departure came eight months before his term was scheduled to end.

English is looking to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to resolve the dispute. The lawsuit she filed seeks a temporary injunction to halt Mulvaney's appointment.


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