Charles S. Clark | July 9, 2018 | 0 Comments

Obama-Era Deputy Departs Consumer Bureau, Abandons Succession Lawsuit

Deputy had challenged the appointment of OMB Director Mick Mulvaney as acting CFPB head. Deputy had challenged the appointment of OMB Director Mick Mulvaney as acting CFPB head. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

In a victory for the Trump administration’s deregulatory push, the deputy head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has quit her position along with her lawsuit challenging the White House’s appointment of its own budget director as acting bureau chief.

Leandra English, according to news reports on Friday, said through her attorney that she "will be stepping down from my position at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau early next week, having made this decision in light of the recent nomination of a new director.”

President Trump, who last year took the unusual step of assigning Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to temporarily double as CFPB chief, in June nominated former Senate staffer and homeland security specialist Kathy Kraninger to be the permanent replacement for original CFPB director Richard Cordray, now a candidate for governor in Ohio.

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English’s departure came after a nearly year-long legal battle over interpretations of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act versus wording in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act that created the bureau. She said it had been “an honor” to work with the staff. Her attorney, Deepak Gupta, said her appeal of an unfavorable judge’s ruling last fall will end.

In a statement to Government Executive, Mulvaney said, “I really cannot comment on Leandra English’s work at the Bureau, as I never actually met her.” 

Late Monday, Mulvaney announced he had selected Brian Johnson, currently Principal Policy Director at the bureau, to assume the responsibilities of acting deputy director.

“Brian Johnson is the first person I hired at the Bureau and has been an indispensable advisor,” Mulvaney said in a statement. “Brian knows the Bureau like the back of his hand. He approaches his role as a public servant with humility and unsurpassed dedication. His steady character, work ethic, and commitment to free markets and consumer choice make him exactly what our country needs at this agency.”

Many in the banking industry who support Mulvaney’s aggressive rollbacks of some of the bureau’s financial regulations, investigations and penalties, welcomed the ending of the drama. “We’re pleased to see this period of uncertainty at the bureau come to an end, and we look forward to continued engagement with acting Director Mulvaney and his potential successor Kathy Kraninger,” said Credit Union National Association President and CEO Jim Nussle. “CUNA maintains that a bipartisan, multi-member commission leading the bureau would ensure transparency and consistency that the financial services industry needs.” 

Nonprofits representing progressive consumer advocates expressed disappointment but praised English for challenging the Mulvaney appointment. “By taking on the acting director role, Leandra English courageously stood up for the independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at a particularly difficult and challenging time,” said Linda Jun, senior policy counsel at Americans for Financial Reform. “Now that the president has engaged in the process of nominating a director for Senate consideration, something he should have done long ago, the time is right to thank Ms. English for her service to consumers and to the law.”

Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, said in a statement, “Mick Mulvaney and Kathy Kraninger could learn a thing or two from Leandra English’s unwavering commitment to the consumer protection mission of the CFPB and her courage to persist even when big banks, predatory lenders, and other powerful Wall Street special interests are doing everything they can to grind the important work of the bureau to a halt."

Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen, said her group “commends Ms. English's public service protecting consumers from unfair practices by financial institutions. We laud her courageous stand in litigation against the Trump administration in an effort to uphold key transition elements” of the Dodd-Frank Act.

This story was updated with a statement from CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney.

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