The following transcript details an exchange at a Senate hearing Thursday between US Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, and Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The transcript was provided by Warren’s office.
Senator Warren: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
So before the 2008 crash, mortgage lenders ripped off families — and regulators did almost nothing to stop it. The result was a disaster. Four million people were forced out of their homes, more than 8 million people lost their jobs, and 2.5 million businesses were shut down.
So, in 2010, Congress established the CFPB to make sure that kind of crisis didn’t happen again. And lot of people supported it — 60 Senators and 237 Representatives — Democrats and Republicans voted for it.
But you never supported the consumer watchdog, Mr. Mulvaney. You got to Congress after the CFPB was created, but in 2012 you voted in favor of a Republican budget that called for eliminating the agency entirely. Is that right?
Mick Mulvaney: I don’t have a specific recollection, but that sounds familiar to me, yes ma’am.
Senator Warren: Sounds familiar, OK. But that was only the beginning. You also voted for Republican budgets that eliminated the CFPB in 2013, 2014, and 2015, does that sound right?
Mick Mulvaney: Again, yes ma’am there were occasional Republican budgets I didn’t vote for, and I don’t know what was in them, but generally speaking, I see your point, yes ma’am.
Senator Warren: All right, and in 2015, you also supported a standalone bill that would have killed off the CFPB. Is that right?
Mick Mulvaney: I think that’s correct; I think I was a co-sponsor of that bill.
Senator Warren: OK, so I want to take a look at what would have happened if you had gotten your wish and the CFPB had been abolished as early as 2012. So in 2015, the CFPB went after Citigroup for cheating its credit card customers. CFPB forced Citigroup to return $700 million to people that it cheated. Now, if you had gotten your way and the CFPB had been abolished in 2012, that $700 million would be in Citigroup’s bank account right now instead of in the pockets of thousands of Americans, right?
Mick Mulvaney: Not necessarily; the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also has jurisdiction over those actions and could have brought the same action.
Senator Warren: Oh I see, they could have brought the same action. Those are the same agencies that didn’t bring those actions before the crash of 2008, and that didn’t bring this particular case. But you know, let’s not kid ourselves. Let’s not pretend like you hope some other agency would do that work Mr. Mulvaney. I have a list of 11 bills that you supported during your time in Congress that would have made it harder for states and other federal agencies to protect consumers and to hold cheaters accountable. I’d like to submit it for the record.
Chairman: Without objection.
Senator Warren: Thank you. So let’s look at another example. In 2016, CFPB went after a for-profit college chain called Bridgepoint that scammed students with deceptive loans. The CFPB returned nearly $25 million to those students. If the CFPB hadn’t existed, that $25 million would still be sitting at Bridgepoint instead of with working families.
Let me do one more. In 2017, the CFPB shut down a company called Top Notch Funding, which was scamming 9/11 first responders out of the taxpayer money they got to treat medical problems developed after 9/11.
Mr. Mulvaney, if the CFPB had been abolished like you wanted, Top Notch Funding might still be out there stealing from 9/11 first responders, right?
Mick Mulvaney: They might be or the FTC might have enforced the law against them.
Senator Warren: Or some other agency might magically have intervened when they didn’t.
Mick Mulvaney: Why would it have been more magic to have the FTC do it than the Bureau?
Senator Warren: They have a history of not doing this. Let’s do one more example. In 2013, CFPB went after DFS and U.S. Bank and recovered $6.5 million for 50,000 active-duty members of the military who were targeted for scam car loans. Those 50,000 active-duty military would have been out of luck if the CFPB had been abolished in 2012, just like you wanted, right Mr. Mulvaney?
Mick Mulvaney: Again, the OCC has concurrent jurisdiction-
Senator Warren: Yeah, they have concurrent jurisdiction which they did not use. So, I just want to point out one of those 50,000 active-duty military members is Ari Cabot-Boris, from Hull, Mass. His father, Harry, is in the audience today, right back over there. When Ari was a 20-year-old soldier, he had good credit but he was pushed into a car loan that was a scam. When he deployed to Iraq, his dad discovered that the loan and the fees were taking more than 60 percent of Ari’s military paycheck every month. Mr. Boris alerted the CFPB, the agency stopped the scam, and Ari got some money back.
You know, in Congress, you tried repeatedly to kill the consumer agency. Since you got to the agency, you’ve announced that you won’t use the exact enforcement tool that CFPB used to stop every single scam that I’ve mentioned today. You’ve taken obvious joy in talking about how the agency will help banks a lot more than it will help consumers-and how upset this must make me.
But here’s what you don’t get, Mr. Mulvaney: this isn’t about me. This is about active-duty military, it’s about first responders, and students, and seniors, and families-and Ari, and his dad, and millions of other people who need someone on their side when consumers get cheated.
You are hurting real people to score cheap political points.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.