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Advocates worry about disbanding of key Consumer Financial Protection Bureau groups


Members of a U.S. Consumer Advisory Board say they plan to fight a recent decision that led to all of them being fired.

Acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Mick Mulvaney announced this week that members of three advisory boards at that agency were fired. That includes members of the Consumer Advisory Board and the Credit Union Advisory Board. He says the decision to disband the groups was made based in part on costs and budget needs and a lack of diversity. According to a statement, the agency will continue the groups but make them smaller with all new members.

A statement from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said that, “By both right-sizing its advisory councils and ramping up outreach to external groups, the Bureau will enhance its ability to hear from consumer, civil rights, and industry groups on a more regular basis”

It has been a requirement for the agency to meet with members of the Consumer Advisory Board twice per year, but Ruhi Maker, a member of the board and senior attorney at Empire Justice Center in Rochester, says that meeting was cancelled.

She says overall she’s frustrated with the lack of concern she perceives the Bureau has for consumer protections. And before Mulvaney was made Interim Director, he was a Congressional Representative for South Carolina. He sponsored legislation to abolish the bureau and his confirmation in 2017 to the position was rather narrow. He was confirmed in a 51-49 senate vote.

“He thinks the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a sick joke,” Maker said. ”It’s like appointing someone to run the healthcare system who believes we shouldn’t have healthcare. We have an Acting Director who doesn’t believe in consumer protections.”

Maker says her group was working on overdraft fees, predatory payday lending practices and increasing business loans opportunities for women and people of color. She says she’ll continue this work locally, analyzing area banks to explore how they treat consumers. However, she worries that without strong leadership the bureau will allow lenders and financial institutions to rely on unfair practices:  

“A lot of things were put in place to protect consumers that meant that large financial institutions and large banks and payday lenders and other bad actors who prey on consumers weren’t able to make as many fees as they had mostly on the backs of working families.”

In the statement released this week, the Bureau said it will beef up outreach and listen to concerns from consumers: "In addition to the advisory groups, the Bureau will increase its strategic outreach to encourage in-depth conversations, sharing information, and developing partnerships focused on consumers in underserved communities and geographies. These engagements will include regional town halls, roundtable discussions at the Bureau’s headquarters with consumer finance experts and representatives, regional roundtables, and regular national calls."