Mick Mulvaney puts all CFPB operations under review

NEW YORK - The Trump-appointed acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Wednesday that he's launching a review of all the federal consumer watchdog agency's policies and priorities.

This is the second major step taken this week by Mick Mulvaney, who took over as acting director in late November, to reshape the bureau. On Tuesday, the bureau announced a review of its recently enacted rules for payday lending.

The review is the clearest sign yet that the future direction of the CFPB, which has existed for less than a decade, will be dramatically different than it was under the Obama administration.

Mulvaney said in a statement Wednesday that he's putting out formal requests for information for all "activities" of the bureau -- effectively the agency's entire operations. Requests for information are a beginning step by federal agencies such as the CFPB to make changes to any rules they may have already put into place.

"In this New Year, and under new leadership, it is natural for the bureau to critically examine its policies and practices to ensure they align with the bureau's statutory mandate," Mulvaney said.

The CFPB was created in the aftermath of the housing market bubble, 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent Great Recession. It was designed as a consumer-centric federal regulator with a mandate to go after banks, credit card companies, debt collectors and other financial companies for bad behavior.

Under its first permanent director Richard Cordray, the CFPB exercised its mandate aggressively, putting into place new regulations affecting huge swaths of the banking industry from mortgages to prepaid debit cards. Republicans in Congress repeatedly would call the CFPB a rogue agency. One of those Republicans was Mulvaney, who as a GOP representative from South Carolina, once called the CFPBa "sick joke" of an agency.

What rules Mulvaney wants to review or possibly repeal is unknown. His announcement Wednesday was broad, aimed at the entire operations of the bureau, so anything could come of it.

"In coming weeks, the Bureau will be publishing in the Federal Register a series of Requests for Information (RFIs) seeking comment on enforcement, supervision, rulemaking, market monitoring, and education activities," the agency's statement said. "These RFIs will provide an opportunity for the public to submit feedback and suggest ways to improve outcomes for both consumers and covered entities." 

Mulvaney has already announced the bureau will take a second look at its payday lending rules, which were finalized late last year under Cordray. He has also called for a limit to how much personal information on consumers the bureau collects as part of its operations, which critics have said has stymied the bureau's ability do its job.