Acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney protects a consumer from a debt collector (illustrated)
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I don’t understand their angle, but I’m not complaining.

Since Consumer Financial Protection Bureau founding director Richard Cordray resigned last year, things haven’t looked great for the agency. Donald Trump replaced him with a guy who seems to hate regulation, Mick Mulvaney, who asked Congress for a budget of $0.

Mulvaney denied that he was “gutting” the agency, but those comments didn’t exactly inspire confidence — not when he also froze regulation efforts, dropped the probe into credit bureau Equifax’s enormous data breach, and has been cozying up to payday lenders.

Maybe something’s changed. Or maybe Mulvaney really does want to see the CFPB succeed, on his terms. Whatever the case, Mulvaney finally named some kind of priority for the agency along with its release of an annual report on enforcement of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, according to The Wall Street Journal…

Mr. Mulvaney has said he sees debt collection as an enforcement priority because the CFPB gets many consumer complaints about that industry, even as the bureau begins to ease its grips on other sectors such as payday lending.

It is indeed one of the top three complaint types the agency gets every year. Collector harassment is a big problem, and most people don’t know their rights or how to deal with collectors.

But I’ve been skeptical of Mulvaney’s so-called data driven approach to running things — data is easily manipulated, and he’s always been a huge critic of the CFPB. Now that he’s in charge, though, maybe he sees things in a new light.

A closer partnership?

A lot of the things covered in the annual report were going on before Mulvaney showed up. You can hardly give him credit for the more than 84,000 debt collection complaints the CFPB handled last year, or the big enforcement case it wrapped up. (Five others are still pending.) It also defended the FDCPA, the main law that regulates debt collection, in court.

The CFPB also has a longstanding partnership with the Federal Trade Commission to enforce debt collection laws. Unlike the CFPB’s fraught relationship with Trump’s Education Department, the FTC and CFPB seem happy to share regulatory authority even now. And here’s where Mulvaney starts to get some credit, because he doesn’t want to sabotage that relationship.

“From now on, we will be working closely with the FTC to enforce the FDCPA while protecting the legal rights of all in a manner that is efficient, effective, and accountable,” Mulvaney said.

Again, that’s not new. But the fact Mulvaney isn’t actively opposing enforcement here, and isn’t defaulting to side with the industry over consumers for once, is a good sign. And even if he defers to the FTC, that’s not a bad thing. (Don’t confuse the FTC with the FCC, the Internet’s least favorite federal agency.)

The FTC has a longer track record on debt collection and doesn’t take the job lightly. Last year, separate from the CFPB’s efforts, it “filed or resolved 10 cases under the FDCPA or FTC Act against 42 defendants, and obtained more than $64 million in judgments” while also banning more than a dozen companies from collecting debts, according to its annual report.

And it looks like the collection industry itself is comfortable with the shared enforcement authority. (Republicans often claim it’s “confusing” to businesses as an excuse to strip regulator powers. That’s also been the mantra of Trump’s Education Department.) ACA International is an association for debt collectors and creditors, and its CEO endorses the CFPB/FTC partnership.

“ACA supports strong enforcement of collection laws in order to protect consumers from egregious debt collection practices, as well as to protect the reputation of legitimate debt collectors who are committed to compliance with myriad federal and state debt collection laws,” says Mark Neeb.

The CFPB isn’t what it once was, but it’s nice to see Mulvaney hasn’t made it worthless. Now if only he’d learn the acronym — for some reason, several months into the job, he still insists on signing it as “BCFP.” At least his staff were smart enough to redirect for him.

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Article last modified on April 12, 2018. Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Debt Collection Is the New CFPB Focus - AMP.

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Article last modified on April 12, 2018. Published by, LLC .