The White House on Monday proposed a major restructuring of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that would significantly cut the watchdog agency’s budget and limit its enforcement power.
Under the proposal, which was included in President Trump’s 2019 budget plan, the CFPB would be funded through Congress rather than the Federal Reserve, giving lawmakers more influence over the agency’s priorities. The CFPB’s 2019 budget would also be capped at its 2015 level, $485 million compared with a projected $630 million this year. The plan, which would take two years to implement, also calls for putting restrictions on the CFPB’s enforcement authority.
‘‘The proposed reforms would impose financial discipline, reduce wasteful spending, and ensure appropriate congressional oversight,’’ according to a strategic statement released Monday.
‘‘To prevent actions that unduly burden the financial industry and limit consumer choice, the proposal restricts CFPB’s broad enforcement authority over federal consumer law.’’
The proposal is the latest illustration of the Trump administration’s intention to drastically revamp an agency that it considers has acted too aggressively and wields too much power. The CFPB is an ‘‘unaccountable bureaucracy with unchecked regulatory authority,’’ the White House said in its proposal.
Trump appointed one of the agency’s most vocal critics, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, to be the CFPB’s acting director in late November, and Mulvaney has already taken several steps to shake up the agency. He has ended lawsuits and paused investigations. The CFPB office in charge of overseeing lending-practices cases has also been stripped of its enforcement powers.
Mulvaney has said that going forward the CFPB would be humble and not push the envelope as it had previously. ‘‘We enforce the law; we do not make the law,’’ Mulvaney said on ‘‘Face the Nation’’ on Sunday.
But Mulvaney’s efforts have alarmed Democrats and consumer groups who say he is defanging an agency meant to protect consumers. ‘‘Supposed acting director Mulvaney of CFPB on Face the Nation yesterday talking about doing the job with ‘humility’ and not being aggressive. Financial cheaters, scammers, and fraudsters are not humble,’’ Richard Cordray, who led the agency under President Obama, said on Twitter Monday. ‘‘To take them on, you must be aggressive to be effective, as he admits I was.’’
The budget proposal, said Karl Frisch, executive director of the advocacy group Allied Progress, reflects Trump’s ‘‘unequivocal contempt for consumers and his unwavering loyalty to the big banks, predatory lenders, and Wall Street special interests.’’ Mulvaney is ‘‘clearly working from the outside and the inside to destroy the CFPB and cripple its ability to protect consumers from financial predators,’’ Frisch said.
The CFPB is slated to unveil a new strategic plan later Monday that would further detail Mulvaney’s plans to rein in its powers.
‘‘If there is one way to summarize the strategic changes occurring at the Bureau, it is this: we have committed to fulfill the Bureau’s statutory responsibilities, but go no further,’’ Kirsten Sutton Mork, the CFPB chief of staff, said in a message to the agency’s staff on Friday. Sutton Mork had spent years as a senior staff member of the House Financial Services Committee. The committee’s chairman, Representative Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, has been one of the CFPB fiercest critics.