Mulvaney names lead for bureau ‘Office of Innovation’

The acting director of the federal consumer protection bureau on Wednesday announced the appointment of Paul Watkins as the “director” of the recently created Office of Innovation, which will take over the work that was being done under Project Catalyst.

John (“Mick”) Mulvaney, acting director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protecton (BCFP, previously known as CFPB), made the announcement on the eve of a nomination hearing taking place Thursday morning for Kathleen Kraninger, whom President Donald Trump has nominated for a permanent appointment as BCFP director.

“I am delighted that Paul Watkins is bringing his deep expertise, track record of protecting consumers, and commitment to innovation to the Bureau,” Mulvaney stated in Wednesday’s press release. “I am confident that, under his leadership, the Office of Innovation will make significant progress in creating an environment where companies can advance new products and services without being unduly restricted by red tape that belongs in the 20th century.”

The release says Mulvaney created the Office of Innovation “to focus on encouraging consumer-friendly innovation, which is now a key priority for the Bureau,” and that the work that was being done under Project Catalyst will be transitioned to this new office.

“The Bureau intends to fulfill its statutory mandate to promote competition, innovation, and consumer access within financial services,” according to the BCFP release Wednesday. “To achieve this goal, the new office will focus on creating policies to facilitate innovation, engaging with entrepreneurs and regulators, and reviewing outdated or unnecessary regulations.”

(Background: Project Catalyst was launched in 2012 “to encourage consumer-friendly innovation and entrepreneurship in markets for consumer financial products and services.”)

Watkins has been working in the Arizona Office of the Attorney General and was in charge of its fintech initiatives, the release says. “He managed the FinTech Regulatory Sandbox, the first state fintech sandbox in the country, which allows a company limited access to the marketplace in exchange for relaxing some regulations,” the release notes.

It says Watkins was also the chief counsel for the Civil Litigation Division, managing the state’s litigation in areas such as consumer fraud, antitrust, and civil rights. Before that, it says, he practiced at Covington & Burling LLP in San Francisco and Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett LLP in Palo Alto, Calif. It adds he is a graduate of Hillsdale College and Harvard Law School, and a former clerk for Judge Dennis W. Shedd on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Announces Director for the Office of Innovation