Decision Pending on CFPB’s Permanent Director Amid Senate Questions About Staff Openings and Changes


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The bureau’s Acting Director David Uejio and director nominee Rohit Chopra both received letters from Senate Banking Committee Republicans about practices by the Biden administration to remove “senior career officials” at the CFPB. Editor’s note: This article is available for members only.

7/14/2021 10:30

Changes in staffing and political appointees at regulatory agencies, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are not uncommon when new leadership takes office at the White House and in Congress.

However, while a decision is pending on Rohit Chopra’s nomination as CFPB director, there are staff changes and several key vacancies in the bureau’s top departments and questions on the matter from members of Congress remain unanswered.

An article from Government Executive Senior Correspondent Eric Katz recently shed light on the Biden administration’s plans to fill career positions compared to the strategy under the Trump administration.

“[The] CFPB in recent months has offered separation incentives including early retirement and launched investigations into career senior executives to sideline them, targeting about a half-dozen of the highest-ranked non-political staffers at the bureau. The approach is an atypical one given the intentional role of career employees to remain in their jobs from one administration to the next and the laws established to protect them from politically motivated personnel decisions,” according to the article.

The CFPB’s bureau structure staff chart, last updated in May, shows the chief of staff position is vacant and several positions remain filled on an acting basis, such as general counsel and associate director of Consumer Education & External Affairs.

Matt Cameron, according to LinkedIn, left the bureau in July, where he led its Office of Stakeholder Management. The bureau structure chart and Cameron’s position have not been updated.

Katz reports the bureau “already has a complicated history with career staff in its relatively brief existence. Many of its initial hires while standing up the agency after the passage of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act were brought on using excepted service hiring authority, meaning it avoided some of the normal hurdles in federal hiring. This created a distrust between the career executive staff and Mick Mulvaney, who led CFPB in a temporary capacity under Trump. Mulvaney took the controversial step of installing new political appointees at the bureau to whom top career staff would answer, sparking outcry from consumer advocacy groups and lawmakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.”

Former CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger’s nomination was approved at the Senate Banking Committee level in August 2018 and advanced to the full Senate in November that year. Her nomination was officially approved and sent to President Donald Trump in December 2018.

Kraninger replaced Mulvaney, whom she worked with at the Office and Management and Budget (OMB.) Kraninger started as a program associate director for general government at the OMB in March 2017.

In June 2021, the U.S. Senate cast a 69-28 bipartisan vote to confirm Lina Khan to serve as chair of the Federal Trade Commission, ACA previously reported. Now that Khan is confirmed to serve on the FTC, it is expected Chopra will have to resign from the FTC before he is confirmed at the bureau. Khan will serve the remainder of former chair Joseph Simons’ seven-year term, which began in September 2017.

Meanwhile, Uejio is leading the CFPB and the bureaus deputy director posting, after Tom Pahl resigned in January, remains vacant.

Pahl said in the Government Executive article, after several of the first executive-level CFPB employees left during that time and Mulvaney and Kraninger filled in, “that context ‘created conditions’ in which Biden’s team may have wanted to once again prompt turnover to more directly affect policy decisions.”  

“The transparent way of doing that would be to add politicals,” Pahl said in the article. “But if you don’t want to do that, it does create an incentive to find some space for them.” 

Chopra’s nomination has been reported to be taking slightly longer due to the need to fill his post at the FTC.

As it stands, Chopra’s nomination has been pending since President Joe Biden announced it in January. The Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination on a 12-12 tie vote in March and the Senate’s power sharing agreement created due to the 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans should allow Chopra’s nomination to move forward to the full Senate for consideration, ACA International previously reported.

Senate Members Demand Answers From Chopra

Questions about the CFPB’s staffing have reached the Senate, and the Senate Banking Committee issued a follow-up letter to Chopra July 13 demanding answers about his “knowledge of allegations detailed in recent press reports over the improper treatment of employees at the CFPB.” This included Katz’s article.

“According to the allegations in the press reports, political leadership at the CFPB under the Biden administration has taken questionable and possibly unlawful actions to push out top-level CFPB career civil servants in order to fill those civil service positions with hand-picked loyalists,” the letter from Senate Banking Committee Republicans, led by Ranking Member U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., states. “Such actions reportedly include offering employees extraordinary separation incentives to leave their posts and placing employees on administrative leave after opening up frivolous investigations against them. These allegations, if true, may violate employment and other laws.”

The letter first surfaced in June with a request for Chopra to answer questions about the staffing issues by June 21.

“Any individual nominated to lead a federal agency should be expected to provide truthful and clear answers to fair and basic questions from Congress. Any nominee who refuses to do so during their nomination has not earned the right to be confirmed,” the letter states, reiterating the request for Chopra to respond.

Toomey also issued a similar letter asking Uejio about his knowledge of the staffing issues in June.

It’s not the first time he’s addressed concerns with the bureau’s acting leadership.

In June, Toomey addressed several concerns about the CFPB’s recent proposals on supervision, enforcement and final rules, including the debt collection rule (Regulation F), in a letter to Uejio, ACA previously reported.

Regarding the staffing issues, Toomey also sent a letter requesting for the Office of Inspector General for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and CFPB to “promptly review the allegations” and “if found credible . . . open an investigation into whether any CFPB officials — or other officials in the federal government — violated any employment or other laws.”

Related Content from ACA International:

U.S. Senate Confirms New FTC Chair; Possibly Advancing CFPB Director Nomination Process

ICYMI on the ACA Huddle: CFPB Alum Reflects on Regulations and Bureau Leadership

Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Expresses Concern About CFPB’s Regulatory Approach

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