Who’s the boss at the CFPB? A brief recap of the current leadership controversy

A debate over arcane bureaucratic language turned into high drama on Monday as competing appointees vied for control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the independent consumer watchdog created in the wake of the financial crisis.

Here’s a recap of the drama in case you missed it:

  • Mick Mulvaney, named interim director by President Donald Trump, arrived at the CFPB’s headquarters on Monday morning and wasted no time in asserting his authority via an all-staff email.
  • The prior evening, rival leader Leandra English, named deputy director by departing CFPB head Richard Cordray on Friday, sued in federal court to obtain a restraining order that would sideline Mulvaney.
  • While English waits for her suit to proceed, the bureau’s 1,600 employees will be caught up in yet another example of partisan gridlock.
  • U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, is scheduled to review English’s suit.
  • Kelly’s opinion will have to weigh Dodd-Frank, the legislation that created the CFPB, against the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which the White House has cited as justification for Mulvaney’s installation at 1700 G Street.

Bottom line: The CFPB has been a political lightning rod since its inception, both for its mission and its independence. Critics contend that the bureau is an unnecessary addition to an already cluttered financial regulatory landscape. (Mulvaney, for example, has called it a “sad, sick” joke.) In addition, they take issue with the bureau director’s relatively cocooned status; he or she is appointed by the president, but cannot be fired by the president without cause.