Mulvaney Names First Director of CFPB Innovation Office

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau acting director Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday named the first leader for the department’s newly formed Office of Innovation.

Paul Watkins, formerly in charge of financial technology initiatives for the attorney general of Arizona’s office, will take the helm of the innovation office, announced as part of a larger restructuring of the CFPB back in May.

According to the bureau — which Mulvaney continues to call the “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection” in a nod to its name in the original Dodd-Frank regulatory package that created it — the new department will work to foster “consumer-friendly innovation.”

“I am delighted that Paul Watkins is bringing his deep expertise, track record of protecting consumers, and commitment to innovation to the bureau,” Mulvaney said in a statement. “I am confident that, under his leadership, the Office of Innovation will make significant progress in creating an environment where companies can advance new products and services without being unduly restricted by red tape that belongs in the 20th century.”

Some of those initiatives will include reaching out to both business owners and regulators in order to “facilitate innovation,” with an added focus on potentially rolling back regulations determined to be “outdated or unnecessary.”

In his work for the Arizona AG’s office, Watkins oversaw the FinTech Regulatory Sandbox, a program that encouraged innovative tech companies to move to the state by offering to ease certain regulatory burdens — with a specific emphasis on emerging technologies such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies, according to a March Forbes report on the initiative.

Watkins was also the chief counsel for Arizona’s Civil Litigation Division, and worked in private practice for the firms Covington & Burling and Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett.

Kathy Kraninger, the Trump administration’s candidate to formally replace Mulvaney, will receive a confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday morning. Senate Democrats have vowed to block her nomination amid concerns over her lack of experience, as well as her potential involvement with the White House’s family-separation policy along the southern border during her time at the Office of Management and Budget.

Written by Alex Spanko

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