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Trump Administration Files Motion Aimed At Controlling Consumer Protection Agency

Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, testifies before a Senate committee last year. The Trump administration is trying to bring the independent bureau under the president's direct control.

The Trump administration has gone to court to try to bring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under its control. The bureau is an executive branch entity, but the president doesn't have direct control over the six-year-old agency.

The Justice Department filed a brief with a federal appeals court in Washington on Friday, making the case that the structure of the agency violates the Constitution.

NPR's Chris Arnold reports that, by law, the head of the bureau can be fired by the president — but only for "inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance." Chris adds:

"[The government argues that limit] means the consumer bureau could engage in 'extreme departures from the president's executive policy.'

"But that's exactly the point, argue the CFPB's defenders. They say that independence from political influence is crucial for a consumer watchdog regulator. Director Richard Cordray has said that preserving that independence is worth fighting for.

"Industry groups have objected to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since it was created under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act."

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told NPR last month that bureau policies have hurt consumers:

"Free checking at banks has been cut in half. Banking fees have gone up. Working people are finding it more difficult to get mortgages.

"The bottom line is the best consumer protection [is] competitive, innovative markets that are transparent. Now, they need to be vigorously policed for force and fraud, but the agencies that do that need to be accountable. And instead, we've had this agency ruled totally unaccountable. It is a rogue agency."

President Trump has larger targets in the financial services area, as NPR's Yuki Noguchi and Tamara Keith have reported:

"[Trump] signed two directives on [Feb. 3], ordering a review of financial industry regulations known as Dodd-Frank and halting implementation of a rule that requires financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

"Trump himself made his intentions clear in a meeting with small business owners Monday. 'Dodd-Frank is a disaster,' Trump said. 'We're going to be doing a big number on Dodd-Frank.'

"These executive actions are the start of a Trump administration effort to reverse or revise financial regulations put in place by the Obama administration and seen by Trump and his advisers as onerous and ineffective."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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