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Trump-installed consumer agency head sets hiring freeze, halts new rules

Trump-installed consumer agency head sets hiring freeze, halts new rules
From Reuters - November 27, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The fight for control of the U.S. consumer watchdog agency intensified on Monday as Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trumps pick to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), imposed a hiring freeze and halted any new regulations.

In a partisan showdown over the CFPB, which was created to crack down on predatory financial practices, Mulvaney is being sued by Leandra English, an Obama-era appointee to the agency who argues that she is the consumer bureaus rightful leader.

The conflict began on Friday when Richard Cordray, a Democrat appointed CFPB director by then-President Barack Obama, formally resigned and named English, his chief of staff, as acting director. Hours later, Trump named Mulvaney, the current director of the White House budget office, as temporary head of the CFPB.

The Republican president has a right to name a permanent CFPB director, officials agree. There are dueling claims, however, about who gets to lead the agency in the meantime.

Both sides presented their arguments during an emergency U.S. District Court hearing in Washington on Monday. Timothy Kelly, a Trump-appointed judge who is presiding over the case, said the issues raised were extremely important and complicated.

The judge as well as the two sides said they hoped to see the case decided within the next few days.

The next step is for the Trump administration to submit its response to Englishs suit.

The fight to control the 1,600-employee agency lays bare deep divisions between Republicans and Democrats over how to regulate Wall Street and protect consumers, following the 2007-2009 financial crisis that cost taxpayers $700 billion in bailouts.

Republicans loathe the CFPB, saying it wields too much power and burdens banks and other lenders with unnecessary red tape.

Mulvaney, who sought to dismantle the CFPB when he was a Republican congressman, acknowledged at a news briefing on Monday afternoon that the Trump administration had a dramatically different interpretation of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that created the CFPB.

He said there would be a 30-day freeze on hiring at the agency and no payments from the CFPBs civil penalties fund for that amount of time as well, except as required legally. All new regulations would also be frozen, he said.

The president has made it very clear he wants me here. ... I want to be here. I dont want anything coming out of here that I dont know about, Mulvaney said.

DUELING ACTING DIRECTORS

Earlier on Monday, English welcomed staff back from the Thanksgiving holiday in a morning email and signed off as acting director.

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