Tag Archive | "Donald Trump"

Senate Committee Narrowly Confirms Trump’s Pick to Head BCFP


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Kathy Kraninger, current associate director for general government at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), was approved by the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing on Urban Affairs to lead the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP) by a narrow 13-12 vote.

Thursday’s vote sends President Donald Trump’s pick to head the bureau to the full Senate, which has yet to schedule a confirmation vote. If confirmed, Kraninger, who has been criticized for her lack of experience in consumer financial protection but lauded as a free-market ally in discussions about the BCFP-creating Dodd-Frank Act, would replace her boss at the OMB, Mick Mulvaney, as the bureau’s acting director.

“At her hearing, Ms. Kraninger reiterated her dedication to fulfilling the bureau’s congressional mandate, ensuring all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services that are fair, transparent, and competitive,” said U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who chairs the committee. “Given her depth and diversity of public service experience, I have the utmost confidence that she is well prepared to lead the bureau in enforcing federal consumer financial laws, protecting consumers’ sensitive personal financial information, expanding access to credit, and making the bureau more transparent and accountable.”

Kraninger, who previously worked for the Department of Transportation and was an early hire at the Department of Homeland Security, has never held public office or run a major government office or federal agency. She joined the Trump administration from the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security and has served as an aide for several Senate panels.

In her role at the OMB, Kraninger helps draft budgets for seven cabinet departments and 30 government agencies totaling $250 million. That includes budgets for all financial regulators, including the CFPB.

In written testimony submitted at her July 29 nomination hearing, Kraninger emphasized that “the bureau should be fair and transparent, ensuring its actions empower consumers to make good choices and provide certainty for market participants” — goals that struck a positive chord with the financial services industry.

“The American Financial Services Association supports the Senate Banking Committee’s approval of the nomination of Kathy Kraninger as the next director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection and is pleased to see her nomination pass the Banking Committee,” said Chris Stinebert, the association’s president and CEO, in a statement issued to F&I and Showroom shortly after today’s vote.

“We urge the full Senate to confirm her nomination,” he added.

Kraninger’s lack of experience, however, continued to draw criticism up until the vote, with detractors speculating that her nomination is simply a way to keep Mulvaney connected to an agency he’s worked to rein in since his appointment as acting director on Nov. 24, 2017 — the day Richard Cordray formally resigned as head of the bureau.

Kraninger has also faced questions about her role in other actions taken by the Trump administration, including its policy of separating children from their parents crossing the border and its response to the hurricanes that ravaged Puerto Rico. Also mentioned prior to the vote were reports that Mulvaney plans to suspend examinations of lenders for compliance with the Military Lending Act.

“We created the Consumer Protection Bureau to fight for average Americans, and stand up for the people we serve,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee. “If there was any doubt at how important this agency is — and how damaging it can be in the wrong hands — we don’t have to look any further than Mr. Mulvaney’s outrageous actions last week, announcing that the Consumer Protection Bureau is no longer going after shady lenders that cheat our servicemembers.

“Ms. Kraninger has not spoken up and said she’ll defend our troops from payday lenders that prey on them, which speaks volumes,” he continued. “Instead we get, “I cannot identify any actions that Acting Director Mulvaney has taken with which I disagree.”

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CFPB Official Who Sued Trump Resigns, Drops Suit


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Leandra English, who former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray’s picked to succeed him as acting director, is ending her court battle to unseat Mick Mulvaney as acting head of the bureau and her employment with the embattled regulator.

On Friday, English’s attorney, Deepak Gupta, posted a statement on Twitter that English is stepping down from her role as deputy director and that she plans to file court papers today to bring her litigation over the leadership of the CFPB to a close following President Trump’s nomination of Kathy Kraniger as permanent director of the agency.

“I will be stepping down from my position at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau early next week, having made this decision in light of the recent nomination of a new director,” the statement, attributed to English, reads. “I want to thank all of the CFPB’s dedicated career civil servants for your important work on behalf of consumers. It has been an honor to work alongside you.”

On Monday, Mulvaney announced that Brian Johnson, who currently serves as the bureau’s principal policy director, will assume the bureau’s second leadership post as acting director. Prior to his appointment to the CFPB, Johnson served as senior counsel to Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) at the House Financial Services Committee.

Mulvaney described Johnson as an “indispensable advisor,” noting that he was the first person he hired at the bureau. “Brian knows the bureau like the back of his hand. He approaches his role as a public servant with humility and unsurpassed dedication,” Mulvaney said in a statement released late Monday. “His steady character, work ethic, and commitment to free markets and consumer choice make him exactly what our country needs at this agency.”

When Cordray resigned on Nov. 24, 2017, he elevated English, his former chief of staff, to deputy director — a move that established her as acting director until the Senate confirms Trump’s permanent appointee.

Hours after Cordray’s announcement, Trump appointed Mulvaney as acting director, citing his authority under the Federal Vacancies Act (FVRA) of 1988. English filed suit two days later (Nov. 26) to block the appointment, arguing that she was the rightful acting director due to a successor statute in the CFPB-creating Dodd-Frank Act.

English’s attorneys also questioned whether allowing Mulvaney, who once characterized the bureau as a “sick joke,” to continue serving as a White House official would compromise the bureau’s independence. The argument was backed by the former lawmakers who championed the CFPB-creating Dodd-Frank Act.

“That was our intent, to strip this away from the politics of the moment, to give consumers the sense of confidence that there was one place here — when it came to their financial services — [where] there would be people watching out for them, regardless of political party or partisanship,” said former Sen. Chris Dodd during media call this past November.

On Nov. 29, three days after filing suit, English’s request for a restraining order to block Mulvaney’s appointment was denied by U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly. English’s attorneys then filed an amended complaint on Dec. 6, 2017, requesting a preliminary injection to remove Mulvaney as acting head of the agency. That request was also denied by Kelly, a ruling set the stage for English’s appeal.

“The Court finds that English is not likely to succeed on the merits of her claims, nor is she likely to suffer irreparable harm absent the injunctive relief sought,” Judge Kelly wrote in his 46-page decision. “Moreover, the balance of the equities and the public interest also weigh against granting the relief. Therefore, English has not met the exacting standard to obtain a preliminary injunction.”

Kelly’s ruling set the stage for English’s appeal, on which a three-judge federal appeal panel in Washington, D.C., has yet to issue a ruling.

On June 19, Trump nominated Kraninger, a White House budget official who works under Mulvaney and served as an aide to several Republican senators, to serve as the next director of the bureau. The announcement came a week before Mulvaney’s interim term was set to end.

“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,” Mulvaney said in a statement issued the same day Kraninger’s nomination was announced. “Vigorous independence, sharp-as-a-tack intelligence, and simple, old-fashioned, Midwestern humility make her the ultimate public servant. 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.”

Critics like Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, however, have questioned Kraninger’s qualifications for the job because of her lack of experience in financial regulation or consumer protection.

email hidden; JavaScript is required Warren, who considered the architect of the CFPB, tweeted the day Kraninger’s appointment was announced. “That’s bad news for seniors, servicemembers, students — and anyone else who doesn’t want to get cheated. And it gets even worse.”

As for English’s Friday announcement, Warren said the following in a statement: “From the earliest days of the CFPB, Leandra has directed her passion and formidable skills to building a strong, professional agency that stands up for consumers. I’m grateful for her service and wish her the best in her future endeavors.

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Judge Again Rules in Favor of Trump in Battle for Control of CFPB


WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal judge once again sided with the White House in the battle for control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, denying last Wednesday a request by CFPB Deputy Director Leandra English for a preliminary injunction to remove President Donald Trump’s appointee as acting head of the agency.

The ruling comes less than 50 days after U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly denied English’s request for a restraining order to block President Trump’s appointment of White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as acting director. It now sets the stage for an appeal by English, who has said she is the rightful acting director.

“The Court finds that English is not likely to succeed on the merits of her claims, nor is she likely to suffer irreparable harm absent the injunctive relief sought,” Judge Kelly wrote in his 46-page decision. “Moreover, the balance of the equities and the public interest also weigh against granting the relief. Therefore, English has not met the exacting standard to obtain a preliminary injunction.”

Judge Kelly originally denied English’s request for a temporary restraining order to block Mulvaney’s appointment on Nov. 28. The ruling, however, pertained to the restraining order and not the merits of the case, with English’s attorney Deepak Gupta hinting that Kelly’s ruling “would not be the final answer.”

Gupta then filed an amendment complaint on behalf of English on Dec. 6 requesting a preliminary injunction. Unlike the temporary restraining order, the injunction can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit if not granted.  Gupta gave no indication that Wednesday’s ruling would be appealed, although he expressed disappointment in Kelly’s decision in a Twitter post.

“The law is clear: President Trump may not circumvent the Senate confirmation process by installing his White House budget director to run the CFPB part time,” Gupta wrote. “Mr. Mulvaney’s appointment undermines the bureau’s independence and threatens its mission to protect American consumers.”

When Cordray formally resigned as CFPB director on Nov. 24, he elevated English, his former chief of staff, to deputy director. The move established her as acting director until the Senate confirms Trump’s permanent appointee.

Hours after Cordray’s announcement, Trump appointed Mulvaney as acting director, citing his authority through the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA). English filed suit two days later to block the appointment, arguing that she was the rightful acting director due to a successor statute in the CFPB-creating Dodd-Frank Act.

English’s attorneys also questioned whether allowing Mulvaney, who once characterized the bureau as a “sick joke,” to continue serving as a White House official would compromise the bureau’s independence. The argument was backed by the former lawmakers who championed the CFPB-creating Dodd-Frank Act.

“That was our intent, to strip this away from the politics of the moment, to give consumers the sense of confidence that there was one place here — when it came to their financial services — [where] there would be people watching out for them, regardless of political party or partisanship,” said former Sen. Chris Dodd during media call on Nov. 30.

Dodd joined former Rep. Barney Frank and more than 30 current and former members of Congress in writing one of five separate amicus briefs in support of English’s position. In Wednesday’s ruling, however, Judge Kelly said that argument is completely without support in the text of the Dodd-Frank, adding that the court “declines to create such a restriction out of whole cloth.”

“Simply put, Dodd-Frank does not prohibit the director of the OMB from also serving as the acting director of the CFPB,” Kelly wrote in his ruling.

“The President has designated Mulvaney the CFPB’s acting director, the CFPB has recognized him as the acting director, and it is operating with him as acting director,” Kelly continued. “Granting English an injunction would not bring about more clarity; it would only serve to muddy the waters.”

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Business Leaders Cautiously Optimistic About Trump, Economic, Auto Sales


ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Twenty senior industry leaders expressed cautious optimism about the economy and the automotive retail industry in White Clarke Group’s annual U.S. Auto and Equipment Survey.

The chief executive officers, directors, chairmen and president surveyed by the technology firm were optimistic about new-vehicle sales, which are on the decline but should remain among the highest on record in 2017. What has them cautious is President Donald Trump, whose communication style has them wondering if his administration can deliver on its pro-business campaign promises.

“As a result, business is falling back into cautious and hesitant state,” said Pacific Rim Capital CEO David Mirsky, noting the economic outlook was favorable following the November election. “The coarseness of our President’s communication style hasn’t helped. Even though most businesses agree with a lot of what Mr. Trump wants to do, we don’t like the way he has operated so far.”

According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, new-vehicle sales should end the year at 17.1 million units. During the first six months of 2017, the report noted, 8.4 million new cars and light trucks were sold. That’s down 2.2% from the year-ago period. Despite the decline in vehicle purchases, economic experts remain optimistic about the market.

One of the reasons is the $1.1 trillion auto finance market, which has fueled the industry’s rebound from the financial crash and recession of 2008-2009. Since then, U.S. light vehicle sales have delivered seven consecutive annual gains — the longest upward streak in decades, with sales peaking at 17.55 million new-vehicle registrations in 2016.

The concern, however, is affordability. According to Experian, the average finance amount for a new vehicle reached a record $30,621 in 2016, while the average finance amount for used also achieved new peaks at $19,329 per car. And in order to lower monthly payments, consumers are extending loan terms. In the fourth quarter of 2016, for instance, the 73- to 84-month term band rose 29% from the prior-year period.

“With the average loan amount for new and used vehicles hitting all-time highs, we are seeing the need for affordability drive consumer purchasing behavior,” said Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive finance for Experian Automotive. “Our latest research shows an $11,000 gap between the average loan amount on a new and used vehicle — the widest we have ever seen.”

Then there are hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which market analysts are still assessing but are believed to have damaged up to 1 million vehicles — 300,000 to 500,000 in the Houston area alone. This, analysts said in the report, could lead to a substantial increase in demand for new vehicles. It may also help with the oversupply problem in the used-vehicle space, which remains robust.

As for the U.S. economy, the report noted it grew at an annualized rate of 2.6% during the second quarter, with some financial institutions, such as Goldman Sachs, estimating it grew 3%. On the global stage, the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicted that the global economy will expand by 3.5% this year.

The report also looked at regulatory threats, specifically those posed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Since opening its doors in 2011, the regulator, which oversees banks, credit card companies, and lenders, has returned about $12 billion in restitution to almost 30 million Americans. If Trump delivers on his promise of less regulation, however, the bureau faces a reduced role in 2018, the report noted.

The report touched on several other topics, including the impact of mobility on ownership models, the equipment finance market, new technology, and the impact of rising interest rates. However, most economic outlooks seemed to rest on the ability of a Republican White House and Republican Congress to deliver on their pro-business promises.

“It’s becoming clearer now that there is dysfunction in the White House and the Republican Party is fractured, so all early attempts to pass meaningful economic legislation have failed,” said Adam Warner, president of Key Equipment Finance. “Business confidence has eroded and will likely continue to be challenged in 2018.”

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Trump Administration Streamlines Self-Driving Guidelines


U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao released a new set of voluntary federal guidelines for autonomous vehicles on Sept. 12 — a move the Trump administration said will make federal regulatory processes “more nimble to help match the pace of private sector innovation.”

The guidance, which replaces Obama administration policy released a year ago, provides a voluntary framework for manufacturers and other stakeholders as autonomous vehicle technologies continue to evolve for testing and deployment. The guidelines will not be enforced, but autonomous vehicles found to have a defect will be subject to safety recall like other vehicles.

The released document also “revises unnecessary design elements from the safety self-assessment” found in the previous guidelines, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a released statement. The Obama administration’s policy included vehicle performance guidance that used a 15-point safety assessment system.

The new guidelines do, however, recommend that all design decisions be tested, validated and verified as individual subsystems and as part of the entire vehicle architecture. Manufacturers are “encouraged to document the entire process: all actions, changes, design choices, analyses, associated testing, and data should be traceable and transparent,” the document said.

The guidance addresses a range of subjects, including crash avoidance, human-machine interface, validation methods, vehicle cybersecurity, post-crash automated driving system behavior, data recording, consumer education, and the role of state governments.

“The new Guidance supports further development of this important new technology, which has the potential to change the way we travel and how we deliver goods and services,” Chao said. “The safe deployment of automated vehicle technologies means we can look forward to a future with fewer traffic fatalities and increased mobility for all Americans.”

Chao unveiled the policy guidelines during a press conference at an autonomous vehicle testing facility in Ann Arbor, Mich. They will be updated again next year to keep pace with innovation. NHTSA is part of the Department of Transportation.

The new NHTSA guidance drew both praise and criticism.

“We fully support the new guidance which is extremely well thought out, clarifying, and in alignment with the collaborative approach at the American Center for Mobility,” said John Maddox, CEO of the American Center for Mobility. “I believe that issuing guidance rather than specific regulation is most certainly the best approach, especially as the development of these technologies is rapidly evolving.”

But Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, viewed NHTSA’s revised policy as a means for the federal agency to weaken oversight of automated vehicles.

“This is a clear step backward for consumer safety that sends a troubling message about the Transportation Department’s priorities under the new administration,” said David Friedman, director of cars and product policy and analysis for Consumers Union. “On the same day that the NTSB announced Tesla’s Autopilot system played a ‘major role’ in a May 2016 fatal crash, Secretary Chao indicated that the Department will go easy on automakers, and that it will expect them to do less to verify the safety of emerging automated vehicle systems.”

Friedman served as NHTSA deputy administrator and as acting administrator during part of the Obama administration.

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President Trump Orders Review of Dodd-Frank


WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump took his first step toward making good on his promise to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signing on Friday an executive order directing the secretary of the Treasury to review the 2010 financial oversight law.

The order directs the Treasury secretary to consult with members of regulatory agencies and the Dodd-Frank-created Financial Stability Oversight Council and report back to the president within 120 days (and periodically thereafter). The report, and all subsequent reports, will identify any laws and regulations that inhibit federal regulation of the U.S. financial system.

“Today we’re signing core principles for regulating the United States financial system,” Trump said after signing the order. “It doesn’t get much bigger than this, right?”

The core principles his order lays out include regulations that “empower Americans to make independent financial decisions”; prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts; foster economic growth; enable American companies to be competitive in domestic and foreign markets; advance American interests in international financial regulatory negotiations; and “restore public accountability within federal financial regulatory framework.”

“The Dodd-Frank Act is a disastrous policy that’s hindering our markets, reducing the availability of credit, and crippling our economy’s ability to grow and create jobs,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer during a press briefing. “Perhaps worst of all, despite all of its overreaching, Dodd-Frank did not address the causes of the financial crisis, something we all know must be done.”

Enacted in response to the Great Recession, the Dodd-Frank Act created new regulations along with several new government enforcement agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). While Trump’s order isn’t expected to have an immediate impact, it does set the stage for Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to repeal and replace the act. The likely replacement bill is the Financial CHOICE Act of 2016, which was introduced last year by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). It stands for “Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs.”

“I’m very pleased that President Trump signed this executive action, which closely mirrors provisions that are found in the Financial CHOICE Act to end Wall Street bailouts, end ‘too big to fail,’ and end top-down regulations that make it harder for our economy to grow and for hardworking Americans to achieve financial independence,” said Hensarling. “Dodd-Frank failed to keep its promises, but President Trump is following through on his promise to the American people to dismantle Dodd-Frank. Republicans are eager to work with the president to end and replace the Dodd-Frank mistake …”

Repealing Dodd-Frank, however, doesn’t necessarily mean the CFPB will be eliminated, as it exists independent of the law that created it. However, regulatory insiders say passage of the Financial CHOICE Act could weaken the bureau. A federal appellate court also ruled the bureau’s single-director structure unconstitutional this past October, giving the president the power to remove Director Richard Cordray at will. The CFPB is appealing that decision.

Asked during Friday’s  press briefing if the administration planned to keep Cordray, Spicer said he didn’t have an announcement on the bureau. “That’s an area that we need to work with Congress on,” he said.

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