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Judge Sides With Trump Administration In CFPB Leadership Fight

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So who's in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? This is the Obama-era agency set up to protect consumers from financial industry abuses. And it now has a new leader after quite a bit of confusion. Let's remember on Monday two officials showed up claiming to be the boss - one, the outgoing director's appointee, Leandra English, the other, President Trump's choice, Mick Mulvaney, who also runs the Office of Management and Budget. He brought doughnuts, which as far as we know did not figure into a federal judge's decision on the matter. Yesterday, the judge ruled that Mulvaney is the rightful leader of the agency. Renae Merle is a reporter for The Washington Post. She's been following all of this.

Hi there, Renae.

RENAE MERLE: Now I'm hearing him, yes.

GREENE: Renae, are you there?

MERLE: Yes, now.

GREENE: Oh, great. So what - tell me what this ruling says.

MERLE: Hi there. Yes.

GREENE: What does this ruling say?

MERLE: This ruling basically says that, at least for now on a temporary basis, Mick Mulvaney is the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The judge basically refused a temporary restraining order that Leandra English, who also believes that she's the acting director of the agency, had asked for.

GREENE: So denied a restraining order - does this mean the matter is settled, or does this just mean that Mulvaney is in charge for now? Renae, are you still there?

MERLE: Yes, I'm having a hard time hearing.

GREENE: OK. I'm just wondering if this settles things. Does this mean that Mulvaney is firmly in charge, or is there still some open questions?

MERLE: No, it actually doesn't settle things. That was a ruling just on the temporary restraining order. We're still waiting - there are still some constitutional, legal issues underlying this, and Leandra English is expected to try to push this issue even further perhaps by filing an injunction or appealing the decision.

GREENE: OK. So I guess we should remember - I mean, this has been a really interesting battle over who gets to use an office. But there's a lot more at stake here. I mean, President Trump and other Republicans have been critical of this agency, suggesting that it actually is more of a burden and doesn't actually protect consumers. And you have the outgoing director who believe very much otherwise. So to have Mulvaney now, President Trump's pick, I mean, this could be very meaningful for what exactly the CFPB does.

MERLE: I think it could be a - quite a shocking remaking of this agency. Mulvaney himself has called the agency a joke, complained that it was unaccountable, said that he wanted to get rid of it. President Trump has said it was a total disaster and that he was going to remake it to make it better for consumers. And so the - one of the things that the CFPB has been known for over the last couple of years - it's only a 6-year-old agency - is aggressively going after big banks, payday lenders, debt collectors. We could just see a more business friendly tone from this agency coming forward. We could just see them maybe scaling back on enforcement actions and rule-making.

GREENE: All right, speaking to Renae Merle. She is a business reporter for The Washington Post who has been following this entire - this whole leadership struggle over this federal agency. Thanks very much, Renae.

MERLE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.