Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today joined a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Rhode Island and 17 other states in English v. Mulvaney, a lawsuit challenging President Trump's decision to appoint Mick Mulvaney as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The 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.
Richard Cordray was the first director of the agency, which is designed to serve as an independent consumer advocate and check on the power of large financial-services businesses. He stepped down last month and, under the act that created the CFPB, his deputy director, Leandra English, became the acting director. Trump, citing an earlier federal law, claimed he had authority to appoint an acting director and selected Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney has been an outspoken critic of the CFPB and, while he served in Congress, voted to weaken the agency's authority and questioned its existence. Ms. English brought suit to challenge Trump's effort.
"The CFPB has played a critical role in protecting consumers in Rhode Island and beyond, and we cannot allow this Administration to dismantle its independent authority to become nothing more than a political pawn serving the interests of corporate donors over that of everyday consumers," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
Since the CFPB began operations in 2011, the agency has handled more than a million consumer complaints and returned nearly $12 billion to the pockets of more than 29 million consumers wronged by financial institutions – five times more than the agency itself costs taxpayers to fund. Among other efforts to help consumers, the CFPB has reached multiple settlements with banks, debt collectors, and other predatory lenders. Recently, partnering with several state attorneys general, the CFPB took action against several predatory for-profit colleges, forcing them to pay restitution to consumers the schools lured in with unrealistic promises of a degree and gainful employment.
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 says.
In addition to Rhode Island, the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington state joined the brief.