At Kansas Town Hall, CFPB “Acting Director” Offered Yet Another Perplexing Reason for Why He Dissolved Consumer Advisory Board
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning, at a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) town hall meeting in Kansas, Mick Mulvaney offered yet another bizarre explanation for his decision to disband the bureau’s legally mandated Consumer Advisory Board: he wants more secret meetings because unnamed “people” – presumably industry – don’t feel comfortable talking with consumer advocates in the open.
This week, Mulvaney’s staff has said that the Consumer Advisory Board and Community Bank Advisory Council were disbanded because members were more interested in being wined and dined on taxpayer funded trips for board meetings than they were with consumers. They’ve also said there were too many members from the coasts not enough from the middle of the country. Neither of those things are true. Board members have indicated they would have been happy to pay their own way but were never asked and American Banker reported last night that a vast majority of board members are from the middle of the country.
When confronted with his staff’s weak attempts to explain his decision, Mulvaney said he wanted smaller, non-public meetings because “it’s nice to have a discussion that you think is not going to leak out.” Mulvaney said he received feedback from board from “people” saying they were “not comfortable being candid in them” and that they would “like to have some private meetings […] because right now everything is open to the public.” Mulvaney said “there is some good information that can pass when you sort of turn the cameras off” and that “it’s nice to have a discussion that you think is not going to leak out.”
“Mick Mulvaney and his staff just can’t get their stories straight. First, they said the legally mandated CFPB Consumer Advisory Board was disbanded because of expenses and the need for more members from the middle of the country. And now that those inaccurate excuses have unraveled and been disproven, Mr. Mulvaney is telling us consumer advocates are being shut out because some unnamed ‘people’ want non-public meetings where discussions won’t leak out and the cameras are turned off. Given his confession just weeks ago that it was his office policy to give better access to industry lobbyists that showered him with campaign contributions, today’s explanation should worry consumers everywhere,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, a consumer advocacy organization.
He continued, “Remember, it isn’t as if Mulvaney and his senior staff haven’t met with any of the Consumer Advisory Board members. There are credit card companies and banks represented on the board who have given Mulvaney thousands in campaign cash over the years and their trade groups representative have had no trouble getting meetings with Mulvaney and his team.”
What You Need To Know
- On Friday, June 8, 2018, CFPB “Acting Director” Mick Mulvaney and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt headlined a town hall event in Topeka, Kansas, on elder financial exploitation. On Friday, June 8, 2018, the CFPB hosted a town hall in Topeka, Kansas, to discuss fighting elder financial exploitation. The event featured remarks by CFPB “Acting Director” Mick Mulvaney and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Mulvaney and Schmidt met earlier this year to discuss working cooperatively on the issue. [“Town hall in Topeka, Kan., on fighting elder financial exploitation in your community,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 05/16/18; “CFPB head to be in Topeka for town hall meeting with Kansas AG,” WIBW News, 06/05/18]
- When confronted about disbanding the Consumer Advisory Board, Mulvaney said he wanted smaller, non-public meetings because “it’s nice to have a discussion that you think is not going to leak out.” Mulvaney said he received feedback from “people” saying they were “not comfortable being candid” in board meetings and that they would “like to have some private meetings […] because right now everything is open to the public.” Mulvaney said “there is some good information that can pass when you sort of turn the cameras off” and that “it’s nice to have a discussion that you think is not going to leak out.” [CFPB Town Hall in Topeka, Kansas, 06/08/18]
- Mulvaney and his team have shunned the Consumer Advisory Board, while embracing industry. While the CFPB under Mulvaney has cancelled in-person meetings and phone calls with the Consumer Advisory Board, Mulvaney and other senior CFPB staff have met with or spoken to the American Bankers Association, American Financial Services Association, Consumer Bankers Association, Electronic Transactions Association, and the US Chamber of Commerce. [David Dayen, “MICK MULVANEY IS REQUIRED BY LAW TO MEET WITH HIS CONSUMER ADVISORY BOARD. BUT HE’S REFUSING, BOARD MEMBERS SAY,” The Intercept, 06/04/18; Mick Mulvaney Public Calendar, 03/01/17 and CFPB Two Week Look Ahead, March 4 – 17 and March 11-24, 2018]
- Banks and credit card companies represented on the CFPB Consumer Advisory Board heavily contributed to Mulvaney’s congressional campaigns. Mick Mulvaney has received $38,000 in campaign contributions from PNC, Citi, Discover Financial Services, and Mastercard, all of which are represented on the CFPB’s Consumer Advisory Board.[Consumer Advisory Board Member Biographies, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, September 2017; Search for 2016 Cycle Donations to Mick Mulvaney, Federal Elections Commission, accessed 06/08/18; Search for 2014 Cycle Donations to Mick Mulvaney, Federal Elections Commission, accessed 06/08/18]
- Trade Associations representing these same companies have received meetings and secured appearances from Mulvaney and his senior CFPB staff. Mick Mulvaney spoke at a meeting of the American Bankers Association and the US Chamber of Commerce. Brian Johnson has had engagements with the Consumer Bankers Association, the American Financial Services Association, and the Electronic Transactions Association. Emma Doyle also attended the meeting with the Consumer Bankers Association. PNC, Citi, Discover Financial Services, and Mastercard are members of one or more of the trade associations Mulvaney, Johnson and Doyle met with. [Mick Mulvaney Public Calendar, 03/01/17; CFPB Two Week Look Ahead, March 4 – 17 and March 11-24, 2018; Political Contributions & Engagement, PNC, accessed 06/08/18; Political Activities Statement, Citi, March 2016; Political Disclosures, Discover, accessed 06/08/18; Political Activity Statement, Mastercard, accessed 06/08/18]
ALLIED PROGRESS: I really appreciate the panel today. A lot of really important issues have been brought up, a lot of absolutely tragic stories. I want to highlight a point Ms. Taylor made that information is powerful and I completely agree with that. In that vein, you alluded in your remarks, Mr. Mulvaney, to the disbanding of the various consumer advisory boards this week. I know that some members of your staff have given various reasons for that – I think one said that there were a lot of coastal representatives, which I think American Banker said wasn’t quite accurate, and another person said these were taxpayer-funded junkets and we need to save money. But with you here in the room, I would like to hear directly from you what the truth is about these boards. I don’t know that you’ve had a meeting with the Consumer Advisory Board yet in your tenure so I’m just curious to hear from you would like to hear from you why these boards were disbanded, and this important source of information was gotten rid of?
MICK MULVANEY: Sure, I’m happy to and I wanted to thank you for the truck that’s outside although I wish it was a better picture of me. Do I really have that many chins? My kids make fun of me when I make that face, they say I look like Kermit the Frog, I’m not supposed to make that face.
AP: We can send you a picture of it if you like.
MULVANEY: No, I’m going to take a picture with it before I leave I hope. By the way, whoever named the street in front of the building, thank you for that. I don’t know if you all noticed it or not but the street behind this building is “Mulvane(y) Street” without the “y”—you just spell it wrong, you forget to put the “y” on the end. So, thank you for that.
But, no, I will speak to it because I think I mentioned it in my opening comments. First of all, the boards are statutory so we have to do them and we are absolutely going to continue to do them. They are much bigger and got to be much bigger under the previous administration, previous leadership of the bureau, than I was comfortable with. And when I say I was comfortable with, I actually got feedback from people saying, you know what, these groups are too big, we’re not comfortable being candid in them, we’d actually like to have some private meetings if we could because right now everything is open to the public and there is some good information that can pass when you sort of turn the cameras off. Not all the time, but there are sometimes it’s nice to have a discussion that you think is not going to leak out. So we’re trying to figure out a way to get people to be more willing to give us information, that’s one thing that we’re looking at. And again, following the statute, that’s another thing we’re looking at.
But I was dead serious when I said we’re going to spend more time going out into the field and doing this. The group, I think it was the same thirty people we saw a couple times a year. I get to see more people like that today than I would in a year’s worth of those meetings. And I hope you see, what you’ve seen here today, is that we’re serious about this. This is not just checking a box – “oh I’ve got to go to Topeka today because we haven’t been there in the last seventeen months” – no, no, we’re actually interested in getting information from people. All I ask is to give us a chance to prove to people that that is the intention. The intention is not to discontinue input to the bureau, it’s simply going about it in a different way than the previous administration. I recognize that fact that I am a somewhat controversial and politically charged position, I get that, but I do ask folks to simply give us a chance to prove that we are interested in continuing to get information from industry and from consumers alike.
AP: We just hope consumer advocates will continue to have a voice during your tenure.
MULVANEY: And they absolutely will. Thank you.
# # #