Mulvaney, leader of the Watchdog Bureau, advises bankers on ways to downsize the agency

WASHINGTON – Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told banking executives on Tuesday that they should pressure lawmakers to continue with their agenda, and revealed that as a member of Congress , he would only meet with lobbyists if they had contributed. to his campaign.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. . “If you’re a lobbyist who’s never given us money, I haven’t spoken to you. If you are a lobbyist who gave us money, I could talk to you.

At the top of the hierarchy, he added, were his voters. “If you were coming from home and were sitting in my hall, I would talk to you without exception, regardless of financial contributions,” said Mr. Mulvaney, who received nearly $ 63,000 from payday lenders for his campaigns in Congress.

Mr. Mulvaney, who also heads the White House budget office, is a longtime critic of the Obama-era consumer office, including when he was in Congress. It was bugged by President Trump in November temporarily run the office, in part because of its promise to reduce it sharply.

Since then, it has frozen all new investigations and slowed down existing investigations by asking employees to produce detailed justifications. He also severely restricted the office’s access to bank data, arguing that his investigations created online security risks. And it has scaled back its efforts to target payday lenders, auto lenders and other financial services companies accused of preying on vulnerable people.

But he wants Congress to go further and have urged him to snatch funding the Federal Reserve’s independent watchdog, a move that would give lawmakers – and those with access to it – more influence over the actions of the office. On Tuesday, he pleaded with the financial services industry to help support the legislative changes he called for.

He concluded the speech, which included a call to decrease the power of the office, by describing the two types of people he was most sensitive to as a member of Congress – the voters and the lobbyists who contributed to his campaign.

Mr. Mulvaney said trying to influence lawmakers was one of the “fundamental foundations of our representative democracy. And you have to keep doing it.

The association, which invited Mr. Mulvaney to deliver the opening speech at his conference, strongly supports his efforts to consider the financial burdens imposed on banks by the actions of the office.

Asked about the comments, John Czwartacki, spokesperson for Mr. Mulvaney, said: “He was making the point that hearing from people in their homes is vital to our democratic process and the most important thing our representatives can do. It is more important than lobbyists and it is more important than money.

In his remarks, Mr. Mulvaney also announced a series of measures aimed at reducing the power of the office. The agency was championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Richard Cordray, who served as director of the office from its inception until last year.

Such measures include the removal of public access to consumer complaints database, which the agency had used to guide its investigations.

“I don’t see anything here that says I have to run a Yelp for federally sponsored financial services,” he said.

Mr Mulvaney also said he would start calling the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by its official name, the more obscure Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. Administration officials said the rebranding was an attempt to lower the agency’s public profile.

Those politically appointed by Mulvaney at the agency have called on The Associated Press, which sets the standard of style for many publications and broadcasters, to change the way it refers to the office.

“I’m trying to get into the habit of now saying ‘BCFP’. It’s really, really hard to do that when you’ve been saying CFPB for so long,” Mulvaney told the bankers.

The Office of Consumer Affairs was created by the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 to prevent banks and other financial companies from preying on vulnerable consumers. But the office has become the target of Republican lawmakers, who complain they have unchecked power and are too aggressive in trying to punish financial firms.

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