Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Washington dysfunction comes to a point in bureaucratic kerfuffle

WASHINGTON — On Monday, Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, brought in doughnuts. Around the same time, Leandra English, the agency's other acting director, sent an all-staff email thanking employees for their service.


And so it goes in a capital city defined by its dysfunction, at an agency where two public servants, one a holdover from the Obama administration and another a rushed temporary appointee by President Donald Trump, are messily and publicly vying to lead a controversial agency under constant political assault by Republicans.

The bureaucratic roller coaster began with the abrupt departure Friday of Richard Cordray, an Obama appointee who helped the agency aggressively expand its powers to punish rule-breaking companies. He named English as his acting deputy director and presumed acting director. The White House responded forcefully by saying Mulvaney, currently director of the Office of Management and Budget, would be the one in control until Trump decided on a permanent successor, whose confirmation could take months.

On Sunday evening, English filed a lawsuit against Trump in an attempt to block him from appointing Mulvaney, who is named in the lawsuit as "claiming to be acting director" of the agency.

As confusion reigned, English headed to Capitol Hill to meet with at least four lawmakers about her plans. Among those lawmakers: Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader from New York, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who proposed the bureau and helped set it up, according to a spokeswoman for Warren.

Mulvaney dodged questions from consumer finance advocates as he carried in breakfast for at least a few employees on the 1,600-person payroll. There was no public trace of English, whose tenure as a low-profile public servant abruptly ended as she began to fight on behalf of the agency she helped found in 2011.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, cited a memo sent by Mary E. McLeod, the consumer bureau's general counsel, who said she had found an opinion by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel written Saturday in support of Mulvaney's appointment under the Vacancies Reform Act "on point and persuasive."

"I advise all bureau personnel to act consistently with the understanding that Director Mulvaney is the acting director of the CFPB," McLeod wrote.


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