On Saturday, June 16, the Trump administration finally announced its intended nominee to head up the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP, formerly the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). The White House put forward a nomination for Kathy Kraninger, an associate director at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to succeed Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, who has served since last fall. With Mulvaney’s tenure having been both memorable and sometimes controversial, the next head of the BCFP will serve a key role in defining the goals and focus for the Bureau going forward. So, now almost a week after that initial announcement, how has the industry reacted to the news?
It is widely expected that Kraninger will face a tough confirmation vote in the Senate, as Mulvaney has introduced a slew of changes to the Bureau that have been opposed by consumer advocates and Democrats. Nor does it sound like Kraninger—who has worked with Mulvaney at the OMB—will veer sharply away from the path that Mulvaney has forged in recent months.
The White House’s initial statement suggested Kraninger would bring "fresh perspective and much-needed management experience" to the BCFP, "which has been plagued by excessive spending, dysfunctional operations, and politicized agendas.” The White House statement continued: “As a staunch supporter of free enterprise, she will continue the reforms of the Bureau initiated by Acting Director Mick Mulvaney, and ensure that consumers and markets are not harmed by fraudulent actors."
As for Mulvaney himself, he came out with strong support for President Trump’s nominee, issuing the following statement:
I have never worked with a more qualified individual than Kathy. Her commitment to the law, to protecting consumers and to defending what works in our vibrant financial services sector, all while respecting hard-working taxpayers who pay their bills and play by the rules ensures that the Bureau will be in good hands throughout her term. Vigorous independence, sharp-as-a-tack intelligence, and simple, old-fashioned, Midwestern humility makes her the ultimate public servant. From navigating and interpreting how the federal government supports and regulates financial services for key stakeholders to helping stand up a brand-new federal agency when she was at the Department of Homeland Security in its earliest days, she has the kind of experience Washington so desperately needs. I know that my efforts to rein in the bureaucracy at the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to make it more accountable, effective, and efficient will be continued under her able stewardship.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) also came out backing the Kraninger nom, saying in a statement that:
The Bureau has an important mission to enforce consumer protection laws, and properly designed and led, it is capable of great good. We have seen some of that good under the leadership of Acting Director Mulvaney, and I have no doubt that will continue under the leadership of Kathy Kraninger. I am especially pleased that President Trump nominated an individual with management and budget experience—two qualities that are desperately needed at an agency which has been plagued with cost overruns and unnecessary spending and does not have a full-time and an independent Inspector General. I’m confident that, under Kathy’s leadership, gone are the days of wasting a more than $240 million of taxpayer money to renovate a building it doesn’t even own and paying staff to perform research that has nothing to do with the Bureau’s mission. I look forward to working with Kathy, the Trump Administration and House and Senate Democrats to reform the Bureau into a law enforcement agency that truly protects consumers and is accountable to the people’s elected representatives.
U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Missouri) also issued a supportive statement, saying, “I congratulate Kathy Kraninger on her nomination to serve as the next Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Director. Under Acting Director Mulvaney’s leadership, the BCFP has taken steps to not just talk the talk, but to walk the walk, and to ensure consumer protection without assaulting financial independence. I look forward to working alongside Ms. Kraninger as she continues to lead the Bureau in this direction.”
American Bankers Association President and CEO Rob Nichols said in a statement, “Her experience at OMB alongside acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney, along with her years of work on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch, would serve her well in this important position. We trust she shares our interest in ensuring consumers have access to the financial products they want and need, while maintaining the protections they deserve.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), however, was not in favor of the nomination, citing Kraninger’s alleged involvement in the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward immigrants that has resulted in the controversial practice of family separation for these detained individuals. On Twitter, Warren threatened to put a hold on Kraninger’s nomination, commenting, “Kathy Kraninger helps oversee the agencies that are ripping kids from their parents. Now @realDonaldTrump wants her to run the @CFPB. I will put a hold on her nomination & fight it at every step—until she turns over all documents about her role in this. #FamiliesBelongTogether.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, also stated his opposition to Kraninger’s nomination. He told the Boston Globe, “Nothing I’ve seen makes me think that she should have this job, except she’s such an ally, she’s worked for Mulvaney and that tells me a lot. She will have a challenge because it’s clear that rank-and-file Republicans want to emasculate this agency."
Lauren Saunders, Associate Director of the National Consumer Law Center, said Kraninger “does not appear to have any consumer protection experience that qualifies her to lead an important agency that oversees the largest banks and protects the public from risky mortgages, tricks and traps, and other abuses by Wall Street giants.”
Karl Frisch, Executive Director of consumer watchdog group Allied Progress echoed those concerns, saying, “Kathy Kraninger has zero relevant experience that qualifies her to be America's chief consumer advocate.”
Bureau Acting Director Mick Mulvaney’s term was set to expire today, June 22. However, per the Federal Vacancies Act, he can remain in charge of the Bureau until Kraninger’s nomination process is completed. Some industry experts expect her to face an uphill battle to secure the 60 Senate votes she will need for her nomination to pass. Some are even speculating that that is intentional.
Michael Cremata, Senior Counsel and Director of Compliance at ClosingCorp, told DS News, “The nomination of Kathy Kraninger to head the BCFP was certainly a surprise. Compared to others that were in consideration, she seems to lack experience in banking and financial regulations. Some are theorizing this was a calculated move on the president’s part to keep Mulvaney in the post throughout what is likely to be a lengthy confirmation process."
CBS News quoted Ed Groshans, an analyst for investment banking and research firm Height Capital Markets, as saying, “We expect the confirmation process will last four to six months, which means Mulvaney will be leading the CFPB into 4Q18. If the Senate rejects Kraninger's nomination or she withdraws her nomination from consideration, [the Federal Vacancies Reform Act] would give Mulvaney another term of up to 210 days."
White House spokesman Lindsay Waters said, “Mother Teresa could have been nominated, and Senator Warren still would have objected because the bureau is about advancing her political ambitions rather than confirming a director who will effectively lead the bureau."