The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection now has the third Director in its history. On December 6, the Senate confirmed Kathleen (“Kathy”) Kraninger on a 50-49 party-line vote to a five-year term as Director, ending Mick Mulvaney’s year-long tenure as Acting Director. Mulvaney’s tenure was marked by elements of both change and continuity from the agency’s first Director, Richard Cordray, as we discuss here. The most marked departures from the Cordray era relate to the number of enforcement actions brought by the agency and the retreat from the payday lending rule that the agency had finalized at the end of Cordray’s tenure.
The independence of the Director, which Democrats have tenaciously fought for, may now come back to haunt them, as Kraninger’s term runs to December 2023—nearly three years into the next presidential administration. As then-Judge Kavanaugh pointed out at the oral argument in the PHH case before the D.C. Circuit (in a line that drew laughter from the audience for its not-so-veiled reference to Elizabeth Warren), “the new President, might be a different party, might have run on a platform of consumer protection, might be the person who created the Consumer Protection Agency, and will not have the authority to do anything about that for three years.” Of course, there are still pending challenges to the constitutionality of the agency, and maybe the result of those challenges—or other political realities—will lead to the creation of a Commission to run the agency. But for now, Director Kraninger is in charge. As has been the case throughout the Bureau’s history, the political spotlight will continue to shine on it.