Kathleen Kraninger, the president’s choice to head the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP), in her brief opening statement and during Q&A, embraced the bureau’s mission but revealed little detail during a Senate Banking Committee hearing Thursday regarding any specific plans she might pursue should she be confirmed.
Kraninger is associate director at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where she oversees the budgets and related policies for seven cabinet departments and 30 other federal agencies, which she said includes the bureau and other financial regulators. She has no executive experience running a financial regulatory agency or, as she replied during the hearing, any experience working in any financial institution.
Kraninger was nominated June 20 to fill the top bureau post, which is currently held in acting capacity by her current boss, OMB Director John (“Mick”) Mulvaney. Her nomination was sent to Congress two days before Mulvaney’s bureau stint was otherwise set to end (per the Federal Vacancies Reform Act).
In her opening hearing statement, Kraninger said she was “firmly committed” to satisfying the bureau’s congressional mandate “to ensure all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services … that are fair, transparent, and competitive.” To that end, she said she would begin her work at the bureau by setting four priorities. In brief, they are as follows:
- The bureau should be fair and transparent to ensure its actions “empower consumers to make good choices and provide certainty for market participants. In particular, the Bureau should make robust use of cost benefit analysis, as required by Congress, to facilitate competition and provide clear rules of the road.”
- The bureau should work closely with other financial regulators and states on supervision and enforcement.
- The bureau “must recognize its profound duty to the American people to protect sensitive information in its possession.” She added the bureau would, under her leadership, “limit data collection to what is needed and required under law and ensure that data is protected.”
- The bureau must be accountable to the American people for its actions, including its expenditure of resources.
During the hearing Q&A, Kraninger resisted continuous calls for details of her role while at OMB, or her opinions, regarding the development of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy related to immigration, its response to Hurricane Maria (regarding resources provided); and, among other things, a new IRS rule that allows less disclosure about donors to some non-profits.
Kraninger also declined to give specifics about how she sees past, present and future policies of the BCFP. Here’s a brief recap on a couple issues noted:
Payday lending rule: Kraninger declined to say whether she would uphold this rule, which for the most part doesn’t kick in until August 2019 and is being reconsidered under Mulvaney. She did say there is a need for competition for small-dollar loans and praised the recent action of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) in this space.
Bureau enforcement: She said the bureau, under her watch, would aggressively push back on bad actors but declined to characterize the bureau’s pullback on enforcement actions under Mulvaney. She did say she favors continued investigation into the Equifax breach and actions taken in response to Wells Fargo’s fraudulent activities.
Asked whether she thought Mulvaney has done a good job as acting director, she said that from the perspective that he has been focused on implementing the law, yes.