Mulvaney takes seat as acting director; English files suit, legal memos swirl

Mick Mulvaney, designated Friday as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) while simultaneously continuing to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), took a seat at the bureau’s helm Monday following legal interpretations and in spite of a legal challenge to his appointment.

Mulvaney was appointed by President Donald Trump to succeed outgoing bureau Director Richard Cordray, who stepped down Friday.

However, before stepping down, Cordray named Leandra English, the agency’s chief of staff, to be deputy director – essentially positioning her to succeed Cordray as director.

Under the law establishing the bureau (the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, or Dodd-Frank) the deputy director – who is “appointed by the Director” — serves as acting director “in the absence or unavailability of the director.”

However, Trump appointed Mulvaney to take Cordray’s vacated seat at the head of the agency, following the announcement by the agency that Cordray had tapped English for his deputy, and then followed by news that Cordray was stepping down.

The White House, in arguing that Mulvaney was the rightful acting director, cited the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (FVRA), which gives the president the power to appoint replacements for federal leadership vacancies.

The dispute is over whether the Dodd-Frank Act supersedes the FVRA (or vice versa).

Memos from the general counsel’s office at CFPB, as well as from the Department of Justice to White House Counsel Donald McGahn, supported the White House position and FVRA.

However, English filed for a temporary restraining order in federal court Sunday, asking the court to block the president from naming an interim director – and to declare that English and not Mulvaney is the agency’s acting director.

A hearing was set in federal court for 4:30 p.m. ET on English v. Trump.

Monday morning, Mulvaney showed up for work at the agency headquarters in downtown Washington (just across the street from his offices at the OMB). English, for her part, circulated an email among bureau staff Monday morning, welcoming them back from the Thanksgiving break, and signing it “acting director.”

Mulvaney sent his own email Monday, instructing staff to “please disregard any instructions you receive from Ms. English in her presumed capacity as Acting Director,” adding “ff you receive additional communications from her today … please inform the General Counsel.”

English is also reportedly in the CFPB headquarters building.