DOJ/OLC Attorney Giving Trump Legal Cover for Mulvaney CFPB Pick Defended Offshore Payday Lender Being Sued By CFPB

Office of Legal Counsel’s Steven Engel Represented Payday Lender Accused by the CFPB of Illegally Collecting on Loans and Falsely Threatening Consumers with Lawsuits and Imprisonment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over the weekend, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel attempted to provided President Donald Trump with retroactive legal cover in the form of a written memorandum claiming Trump could appoint an acting director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) following the departure of Richard Cordray – something Trump had done the day before in naming OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to the post.

The document attempted to clear Trump’s maneuvering even though 2010’s Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (which created the CFPB) clearly stipulates the Bureau’s deputy director is to become acting director until the president formally nominates a new director and that nominee is approved by the U.S. Senate.

The attorney behind the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel memo to Trump is Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel, who until very recently (this month) represented an offshore payday lender being sued by the CFPB for illegally collecting “loan amounts and fees that were void or that consumers had no obligations to repay, and falsely threatened consumers with lawsuits and imprisonment.”

It is astonishing that the DOJ would allow someone with such a glaring conflict to provide President Trump with legal cover to unilaterally install the leader of an independent government agency that is currently suing his former payday lending client,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.

He continued, “When the CFPB was created it was designed specifically to limit interference from the White House or Congress so that it could stand up to powerful special interests like payday lenders, banks, credit card companies, and debt collectors. The law is clear. When the CFPB loses its leader, the deputy director becomes acting director until the president appoints a replacement that is confirmed by the Senate.”

It is precisely because of its independence that the CFPB has been such a tremendous success. Rather than being overrun by special interests like so many other government agencies, it has had a real impact proactively defending consumers from systemic abuses and going after financial institutions when they step out of line. The results are clear and impressive: the CFPB has returned nearly $12 billion from these bad financial actors to the 29 million Americans they screwed over,” he concluded.

In addition to documenting Assistant Attorney General Engel’s conflicts of interest, Allied Progress has also released extensive research exposing Mulvaney’s deep ties to CFPB-regulated industries, opposition to the CFPB’s central mission and structure, and long record of attempting to sabotage the CFPB’s important work.

To speak with Karl Frisch about Mulvaney and the CFPB please contact Annette McDermott at 202-697-4804 or



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