Watch a video of the questioning here.
Washington, D.C. – In today’s Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Hearing, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) questioned Office of Budget and Management Director Mick Mulvaney about his attempts to initiate the process to deny public access to information used to protect consumers.
The mission of the CFPB is to protect consumers against unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent banking practices like the ones that led to the financial crisis of 2008. In addition to going after predatory and abusive financial institutions, the CFPB maintains the Consumer Complaint database. This is a critical tool that allows the CFPB to collect information every time a consumer files a complaint against a bank or financial organization.
This information helps regulators and law enforcement officials identify abusive practices. For example, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer recently used the consumer complaint information to secure an historic settlement with Wells Fargo.
In her questioning, Cortez Masto asked Mick Mulvaney why he had taken steps to cut off access to this data.
“In February, the Consumer Bureau put out a Request For Information (RFI) asking for comments from interested parties on the usefulness of the Bureau’s consumer complaint data reporting and analysis,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “Are you using this RFI to hamper the effectiveness of the database or completely remove it from public view?”
Mulvaney: “The collection of data is statutorily mandated, so we will continue to do that.”
Senator Cortez Masto continued her questioning: “So let’s be clear—we’re not talking about collecting general data on consumer behavior. We’re talking about collecting data on consumer complaints. So you did an RFI. What’s the intent of the RFI? Is your intent to take information about these consumer complaints offline, out of public view?”
Mulvaney: “It’s not the intent. But [taking consumer complaints offline] is an option available to me. Because we are not mandated to share that data publicly.”
The recent Wells Fargo settlement forced the bank to pay restitution to customers whose accounts had been opened without their permission. It also forced the bank to pay $50 million in civil penalties to fund new consumer protection programs in Los Angeles.
A video of Cortez Masto’s questioning is available here.