April 11, 2018 / 9:05 AM / 6 months ago

U.S. lawmakers quiz Trump's consumer chief over lack of action

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic lawmakers asked U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday why he has not issued any sanctions during his five months at the agency.

FILE PHOTO: Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, acting CFPB director, testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) semi-annual report to Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

President Donald Trump in November tapped Mulvaney, already White House budget chief, to also serve as interim head of the agency conceived to stamp out abusive lending after the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

“Are you telling me that every single financial institution in America has suddenly snapped into full compliance with every single consumer financial law?” asked Democratic Representative Carolyn Maloney.

Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman, has said that the agency overstepped its reach in the past and that he aims to help fulfill Trump’s promise to cut regulations for industry.

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In his first appearance as CFPB head before the Republican-controlled Congress, Mulvaney said that he has brought charges for abusive lending but continued to describe his vision for scaling back the reach of the independent agency.

“Our job is to enforce federal consumer financial laws,” Mulvaney said in an opening statement. “Our focus will be on carrying out only those activities Congress explicitly wrote into law.”

Under Mulvaney’s watch, the CFPB has dropped cases against payday lenders, put a probe into Equifax Inc (EFX.N) on ice and is weighing whether to drop other enforcement actions, Reuters has reported.

Mulvaney has said he intends to invalidate rules that would significantly curb payday lending as soon as possible.

Lawmakers on Wednesday also asked how Mulvaney could balance the responsibilities of policing consumer lending and monitoring the federal budget.

“We do not like your dual role,” said Democratic Representative Brad Sherman.

Mulvaney acknowledged it was a strain to maintain two offices, two staffs and several phones.

“It causes a great deal of frustration for both of my executive assistants,” he said.

The CFPB is seeking a record fine against Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) for auto insurance and mortgage lending abuses, Reuters has reported, which would be the bureau’s first sanction under Mulvaney.

On Thursday, Mulvaney will also appear before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. There, he is likely to be further confronted by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has repeatedly questioned the agency’s current direction.

Reporting by Katanga Johnson; Additional reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Michelle Price and Meredith Mazzilli

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