The U.S. government’s consumer watchdog agency may delete more than 1 million complaints about companies from its website, the agency’s Trump-appointed leader told the Senate Thursday.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched a review of its public complaint database in March with a formal request for comments from the public.
The complaints are searchable on the CFPB website – minus people’s names and identifying information – with gripes about banks, credit cards, debt collectors and other financial businesses. They extend back to 2011.
“Are you using this RFI [request for information] to remove it from public view?” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., asked during a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.
“It’s not my intent – it is one option available,” CFPB acting director John M. “Mick” Mulvaney replied. “If I make that decision, it’s completely my decision under the statute,” he added. The comment period ends June 4, 2018.
Contentious CFPB hearings on Capitol Hill
The exchange capped two days of contentious hearings for Mulvaney on Capitol Hill. Democratic lawmakers blasted him for the bureau’s inactivity, with zero enforcement crackdowns on companies since he was appointed by President Trump in November 2017. That followed the resignation of Obama-appointed Director Richard Cordray.
Mulvaney, and allies in the Republican Party, said the criticism of his deregulatory policies just proves their argument that the bureau’s sole director has too much latitude. The CFPB budget comes from the Federal Reserve, without Congressional approval.
“I don’t know if any director of any bureaucracy has come to you and said, ‘Please take my power away,’ but that’s what I’m doing,” Mulvaney told the committee.
The Dodd-Frank Act made the agency independent of Congress to insulate it from industry influence. The president has limited authority to replace a CFPB director, once confirmed by the Senate.