Lawsuit Filed To Block White House Pick To Head Consumer Watchdog

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Updated at 1 a.m. ET

The person appointed to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by its outgoing head, Richard Cordray, has filed suit to block the Trump administration’s rival appointment of Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to the post.

Leandra English, who was appointed by Cordray on Friday, his last day as director, has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., hours before English and Mulvaney were to set to show up to work on Monday morning for the same job.

The dual appointments stem from partisan politics over the role of the bureau and from a dispute over which law governs filling an interim vacancy at the top. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the law that created the CFPB, says it is the outgoing director’s prerogative, but the administration says the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 reserves that appointment for the president.

The complaint filed late Sunday by English says “The president’s purported or intended appointment of defendant Mulvaney as Acting Director of the CFPB is unlawful.”

“The president may not, consistent with the statutory requirement of independence, install a still-serving White House staffer as the acting head of an independent agency,” the suit reads.

However, Politico reports that the CFPB’s general counsel, Mary McLeod, has sided with the president. In a Nov. 25 memorandum obtained by Politico, McLeod writes: “As General Counsel for the Bureau, it is my legal opinion that the President possesses the authority to designate an Acting Director for the Bureau,” adding, “I advise all Bureau personnel to act consistently with the understanding that Director Mulvaney is the Acting Director of the CFPB.”

Cordray was confirmed as head of the bureau in 2013, two years after being nominated by President Obama. But since Trump took office, he has found himself at frequent loggerheads with the administration, which has been openly disdainful of the bureau and its aims, and Mulvaney has been among the harshest critics.

As NPR’s Miles Parks wrote on Friday, “Because of the agency’s broad mandate, whoever is empowered as director has a huge role in deciding what or how much the organization decides to regulate.”

Politico adds:

“The bureau’s unusual structure, which vests power in a single director with a five-year term, has been a lightning rod since its creation. Businesses have accused the agency and Cordray of regulating by fiat and litigation and argued for more transparency. They’ve also challenged the CFPB’s constitutionality in court, in a lawsuit that could be decided within weeks or months.

Yet numerous polls have shown that consumer advocates remain strong champions of the agency’s work. The bureau says it has delivered $12 billion in relief, including canceled debt and compensation, to customers wronged by banks, credit unions, payday lenders and credit card companies.”

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