Consumer Protection Agency's New Mission? Not Protecting Consumers

The Trump administration continued its relentless effort to defang the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Monday by proposing massive budget cuts to an already underfunded agency and releasing a new mission statement that completely abandons the bureau's previous commitment to protecting consumers from predatory corporations.

The CFPB's new five-year strategic plan (pdf)—crafted by Trump budget chief and acting CFPB director Mick Mulvaney—replaces the agency's former number one goal of "prevent[ing] financial harm to consumers while promoting good practices that benefit them" with a vaguely worded pledge to "ensure that all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services."

Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, said in an interview with the Financial Times that the bureau's new mission statement is "a disgrace" and argued it could increase the likelihood of mass fraud.

"We had a financial crisis because of the abuses in the industry and now it appears they will serve those institutions," Rheingold added.

In addition to the bureau's revamped, corporate-friendly objectives, President Donald Trump's budget request released on Monday calls for a $6.4 billion cut to the CFPB's funds over the next decade—a proposal lambasted by consumer groups as further evidence that Trump is deadset on destroying the agency and giving large corporations free reign.

"This budget is a testament to President Trump's unequivocal contempt for consumers and his unwavering loyalty to the big banks, predatory lenders, and Wall Street special interests that the CFPB is tasked with holding accountable," Karl Frisch, executive director of corporate watchdog group Allied Progress, said in a statement on Monday.

While Mulvaney's new strategic plan for the CFPB—an agency he has previously said shouldn't exist—sparked alarm among consumer advocates, the document merely puts into words what the bureau has been doing in practice since the Trump administration took it over last year.

As Common Dreams reported last week, Mulvaney has effectively killed the CFPB's investigation of the enormous Equifax security breach that compromised the personal information of around 143 million Americans. The White House has also stripped the CFPB of its ability to take action against banks that violate laws against racist lending practices.

In an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Mulvaney laid out his goal of peeling back the agency's previous approach to tackling mass financial fraud.

"We want to run that place with a good deal of humility and prudence," Mulvaney said. "We're not being aggressive, we're not pushing the envelope. We're taking a different attitude towards the job."

Responding to Mulvaney's remarks, former CFPB director Richard Cordray wrote on Twitter Monday that making the agency less "aggressive" will let predatory firms off the hook.

"Financial cheaters, scammers, and fraudsters are not humble. To take them on, you must be aggressive to be effective," Cordray argued.

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