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December 12, 2017

Miller, Attorneys General Urge President to “Preserve and Protect” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Independence

Miller also joins friend of the court brief challenging CFPB acting director appointment

(DES MOINES, Iowa) A group of 17 state attorneys general, including Attorney General Tom Miller, are urging President Donald Trump to “preserve and protect” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s independence from political interference, and vow to “vigorously enforce state and federal laws to ensure fairness and deter fraud…regardless of the future direction or leadership of the CFPB.”

In a letter to President Trump sent today supporting the CFPB’s federal consumer protection enforcement role, the attorneys general express deep concern regarding the president’s choice for the bureau’s acting director, Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, after Richard Cordray, the CFPB’s first director, stepped down last month. The letter notes Mulvaney’s widely-reported statements disparaging the agency as “a joke…in sick, sad kind of way,” and “an awful example of a bureaucracy that has gone wrong.”

“Such statements about an agency that has helped millions of American consumers and achieved fundamental reform in a number of critically important areas of American commerce are categorically false, and should disqualify Mr. Mulvaney from leading the agency, even on an acting basis,” the attorneys general wrote.

Congress created the CFPB following the nation’s financial sector meltdown in 2008.

“As the top state law enforcement officials charged with investigating consumer complaints of fraudulent, deceptive, and abusive financial practices in our respective states, we know from first-hand experience that the need for strong consumer financial protection is undiminished in the years since the financial crisis.”

The letter highlights the CFPB’s advocacy on behalf of American consumers. The agency’s actions include returning $12 billion to more than 29 million victims of unlawful mortgage servicing practices, abusive debt collectors, fraudulent debt settlement companies, abusive student loan servicers, and others. It also emphasizes that the need for strong consumer financial protection is undiminished in the years since the financial crisis.

Moreover, the letter details the powerful partnership formed between the CFPB and state attorneys general. State attorneys general offices have worked with the CFPB on numerous matters, including:

  • Investigating for-profit colleges, student loan originators and student loan servicers, and recovering $183.3 million for 41,000 students nationwide in a settlement with Aequitas Capital Management Inc., a lender that defrauded students at the Corinthian Colleges
  • Securing a nationwide settlement with Rome Finance, a consumer finance company that preyed on active duty US military personnel and their families with deceptive and usurious loans and abusive debt collection practices, ultimately recovering $92 million dollars for more than 17,000 service members
  • Securing a settlement with SunTrust Mortgage Inc. providing $540 million in financial relief to consumers in order to settle allegations of systemic mortgage servicing misconduct, including robo-signing and illegal foreclosure practices

The CFPB’s actions have collectively benefited millions of consumers, and sent a strong message to would-be lawbreakers that “states and the federal government will work hand in hand to hold them accountable if they prey on American consumers.” As the letter notes, “it is our fervent hope that the CFPB and state Attorneys General will continue their close collaboration in defense of consumers for many years to come.”

Friend of the Court Brief Challenges Mulvaney Appointment
On Friday, Miller joined a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of 18 states in English v. Mulvaney, a lawsuit challenging the Mulvaney appointment. The amicus brief argues that maintaining CFPB’s independence is crucial to protecting consumers, and that Congress ensured this independence by creating a specific plan for succession.

Under the act that created the CFPB, Cordray’s deputy director, Leandra English, became the acting director.

President Trump, citing an earlier federal law, claimed he had authority to appoint an acting director and selected Mulvaney on Nov. 24.

English filed a lawsuit Nov. 26 challenging the appointment. On Nov. 28, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly denied English’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the appointment. English is now seeking a preliminary injunction. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 22.

The amicus brief argues that allowing President Trump to circumvent the law regarding who serves as acting director seriously compromises the agency’s independence.

“Attempts to dismantle Congress’s careful and concerted efforts in structuring the CFPB as a truly independent agency would, if successful, harm the Amici States’ ability to enforce the many consumer financial laws that protect their residents,” the brief states.

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