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New CFPB director reverses Mick Mulvaney’s pettiest move as acting director

Kathy Kraninger says the CFPB gets to stay the CFPB after all.

Kathy Kraninger testifies before the Senate Banking Committee in July 2018.
“My birth certificate says Kathleen, but I also answer to Kathy,” newly installed CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger wrote to CFPB employees in an email about deciding to stick with the agency’s original acronym.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

As acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney made it part of his mission to change the agency’s acronym to “BCFP” instead of “CFPB,” how it was typically known. He literally went as far as to change the sign outside the bureau’s offices.

But now it looks like the sign will be changing back.

Kathy Kraninger, who was just confirmed as permanent director of the CFPB, is reverting the acronym to the original as one of her first items of business.

“I care much more about what we do than what we are called,” Kraninger said in an email to CFPB employees on Wednesday regarding the bureau’s logo. She said that as of December 17, she has “officially halted all ongoing efforts to make changes to existing products and materials related to the name correction initiative.”

On Thursday, she sent out a tweet emphasizing her point: a photo of two coffee cups, one reading “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection” and one that reads “CFPB.”

“Both can do the job,” Kraninger wrote. “It’s what we put inside that matters.”

This was all very silly and expensive

Mulvaney, a longtime opponent of the CFPB who once called the bureau a “sick, sad” joke, did a lot of damage in his year-long tenure as acting director there. He reportedly scaled back an investigation into the Equifax data breach, relaxed restrictions on often predatory payday lenders, recommended Congress pursue sweeping changes to the CFPB’s powers, and dismantled financial protections for the military.

He also undertook some pettier initiatives, including going after the CFPB’s logo and identity.

Mulvaney’s explanation was that in the Dodd-Frank financial reform, which created the CFPB, the agency was referred to as the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, so the acronym should actually be the BCFP.

“I’m trying to get in the habit of now saying the ‘BCFP.’ It’s really, really hard to do that when you’ve said the CFPB for so long,” Mulvaney said in April at an American Bankers Association conference. (That’s the same conference where he said that as a member of Congress, he only spoke with lobbyists if they gave money to him.) He told a group of some 1,300 bankers and lending industry professionals that the “CFPB doesn’t exist.”

Mulvaney went as far as to ask the Associated Press to change the bureau’s entry in the AP Stylebook so that it reads Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. According to the Washington Post, bureau staff under Mulvaney were instructed to start changing the name documents, and some were asked to be part of a “Name Correction Working Group.”

The point, it seems, was to emphasize the bureaucratic part of the agency’s mission over the consumer financial protection part, where it helps shield consumers from financial fraud, deception, and abuse.

The problem is Mulvaney’s frivolous logo focus was expensive. The Hill reported in December that the name change would cost the agency between $9 million and $19 million and financial firms more than $300 million.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent a letter Monday to the CFPB’s inspector general requesting an investigation into Mulvaney’s push for the agency’s name change and the cost. But now that’s been reversed.

When asked about the matter, a spokesman for the CFPB said the memo and tweets are “self explanatory.”

Kathleen is Kathy and John is Mick

Kraninger, before being nominated as director of the CFPB, was a largely unknown figure. Her prior position was as associate director for general government programs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a position that oversees the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. Mulvaney is also director of the OMB. (And, now, President Trump’s acting chief of staff.)

Because no one really knows who Kraninger is — and she has no discernible interest or background in financial services and consumer issues — there have been a lot of questions about how she will proceed as head of the CFPB. Will she be a Mulvaney clone, or will she take her own path?

During her confirmation hearing, Kraninger told senators that she “cannot identify any actions [Mulvaney] has taken with which I disagree.”

But on the logo front, she appears to have found one.

“Many of us have legal names but use nicknames without much confusion,” Kraninger wrote in her email to employees. “My birth certificate says Kathleen, but I also answer to Kathy.”

And John Michael Mulvaney answers to Mick.