April 11, 2018 / 9:01 AM / 5 months ago

Congressional panel to grill Trump's consumer chief

WASHINGTON, April 11 (Reuters) - Mick Mulvaney, head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is due to face lawmakers on Wednesday who want to know why he has dropped cases against payday lenders and pulled back from regulating the market for small-dollar loans.

It will be the first opportunity for Democratic lawmakers to publicly grill Mulvaney on his leadership of the bureau created by Congress to stamp out financial abuse after the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

President Donald Trump tapped Mulvaney to lead the agency in November on a short-term basis but the former Republican congressman has said his term could last many more months.

Mulvaney has said he aims to fulfill Trump's promise to cut regulations for industry.

Under Mulvaney's watch, the CFPB has dropped cases against payday lenders, put a probe into Equifax Inc on ice and is weighing whether to drop other enforcement actions, Reuters has reported.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senate Banking Committee Republican Pat Toomey said the panel plans to repeal indirect auto lending and leveraged lending rules in coming weeks.

Mulvaney has said he intends to invalidate rules that would significantly curb payday lending as soon as possible.

A former South Carolina lawmaker, Mulvaney once sat on the House panel he will appear before on Wednesday.

"The right will treat Mr. Mulvaney as a noble hero doing yeoman’s work and the left will treat him as a villain methodically unwinding the consumer protection regulatory regime," said Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research at Washington-based Compass Point Research & Trading.

Mulvaney, who is also director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, has said that under his leadership the CFPB will seek the counsel of others for decisions and act with "humility and moderation."

“The Bureau is far too powerful, with precious little oversight of its activities,” Mulvaney told Congress in a report ahead of the hearing. He added that he intends to protect consumers who are ensnared in unfair, deceptive or abusive practices.

The CFPB is seeking a record fine against Wells Fargo & Co for auto insurance and mortgage lending abuses, Reuters reported, which would be the bureau's first sanction under Mulvaney.

Mulvaney will also appear on Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee. There, he is likely to be confronted by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has repeatedly questioned the agency's current direction in Congress and opinion columns. (Reporting by Katanga Johnson Editing by Michelle Price and Meredith Mazzilli)

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