Democrats seek commitment for change in CFPB hearing

Come away empty handed

In a hearing, Democrats from the House of Representatives sought to convince the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s director to make changes to how the bureau operates under President Donald Trump’s administration.

However, after a long day of questions, Democrats came away empty handed.

CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger testified before Congress for the first time as head of the bureau in a hearing with the House Committee on Financial Services titled, Putting Consumers First? A Semi-Annual Review of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Committee Chairwoman Rep. Maxine Waters started with a series of questions to measure Kraninger’s commitment to fair lending. However, Waters was unable to get a clear answer out of Kraninger on if she has opened any new investigations and if she plans to restore the office of fair lending within the bureau.

“This committee will not tolerate President Trump’s anti-consumer actions,” Waters said in her opening statement, setting the tone for the stance Democrats would take in their questioning.

Leading up to the hearing, Waters announced the reintroduction of H.R. 1500, the Consumers First Act, a bill to block “the Trump administration’s anti-consumer agenda and reverse their past efforts to undermine the mission” of the CFPB.

But Republicans were quick to defend Kraninger, thanking her for serving as the CFPB director and apologizing for her treatment from the Democrats.

The hearing went as anyone would expect – Democrats criticized Kraninger’s actions and looked back on actions taken by former Acting Director Mick Mulvaney while Republicans asked questions that confirmed their view that the CFPB has too much power and that Congress should act to change the structure.

The Center for Responsible Lending explained it hopes the committee is able to clear up several issues in the hearing.

“Director Kraninger has some explaining to do—attempting to scrap the payday lending rule, failure to bring enforcement action against unscrupulous financial actors, and leaving our service members and military families vulnerable to predatory lenders all undermine the founding mission of the CFPB,” CRL Executive Vice President Debbie Goldstein said. “As head of an independent agency that is supposed to be free from political and outside industry influence, Kathy Kraninger has more political staff than her predecessors did and conflicting reports have indicated that the consumer bureau has met with payday lenders to weaken important consumer protections.”

“These actions aren’t missteps or errors, they are deliberate,” Goldstein said. “The public deserves transparency and accountability in their consumer watchdog, someone who’s going to look out for them.  So far, Kathy Kraninger has failed to do this in her short tenure as head of the CFPB.”

Other issues that came up during the hearing included the complaint database.

The CFPB’s consumer complaint database and the reports derived from it have long been a source of consternation for the financial services industry, ever since the bureau decided to make those complaints public over the objections of many industry observers.

However, under Mulvaney, the CFPB began considering removing that complaint database from public view.

During the hearing, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, questioned Kraninger’s view of the issue, and emphasized that the public had a right to know what complaints have been made. Green asked Kraninger to commit to working to keep the database public, however, he was unable to secure that commitment.

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