New CFPB chief’s memo to staff: Enforce law, but don’t presume guilt

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Kathy Kraninger, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said in an email to staff that the bureau will “vigorously enforce the law,” but also must weigh the “costs and benefits to consumers” of enforcement activities and rulemakings.

The email, which was sent Wednesday to the CFPB’s staff and obtained by American Banker, is one of the first indications of how Kraninger plans to approach policy and leadership.

“We must do our work with an open mind and without presumptions of guilt, and to always carefully weigh the costs and benefits to consumers of our enforcement activities and regulatory rulemakings,” Kraninger wrote in the brief email. “On my watch as Director, the CFPB will vigorously enforce the law. I also want the Bureau to respect the rights of all we serve and interact with, to safeguard their personal information, and to be transparent in its operations.”

The email, addressed simply to “All,” began with greetings about the new year that offered “a fresh start” and “a new beginning.”

“In my first few days I have met many of you, and each interaction has strengthened my opinion that the Bureau is home to dedicated professionals with a firm grasp of often sensitive subjects and complex policies,” Kraninger wrote. “I deeply respect the work we do.”

Kraninger has echoed many views of her predecessor, White House budget director and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Still, Kraninger has staked out her own ground by scrapping Mulvaney's rebranding of the CFPB’s name that purportedly would have cost businesses up to $300 million.

She appeared to want to send a unifying message to staff in the memo.

“Let’s move forward as a team to make sure the American people are treated fairly, that the financial institutions that serve them are competing on a level playing field, and the marketplace is innovating in ways that enhance both choice and the needs of the consumer,” she wrote. “I hope you all have a new year full of contentment, good health, and laughter.”

In addition, Eric Blankenstein, a political appointee at the agency who has come under fire for racially charged blog posts he wrote 14 years ago, sent a brief email to staff on New Year’s Eve.

“A new year is an opportunity to begin anew with refreshed energy, perspectives, and goals,” wrote Blankenstein, the CFPB’s policy director of supervision, enforcement and fair lending. “Our refreshed energy is essential as we turn the page on 2018 and write the next chapter on our work furthering the Bureau’s mission, now with our new Director at the helm.”

Kraninger told reporters last month that she would not discuss personnel matters and Mulvaney had refused to bow to outside pressure to fire Blankenstein.

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