“Over time, Trump’s changes are going to have a real impact on the lives of these people who devote their lives to the service of our country.”
On Monday, Donald Trump boasted to a military audience of how he was increasing defense spending and — despite insulting a decorated veteran, Senator John McCain, and questioning the patriotism of the soldiers in an attempted joke — said he was the best President they could have.
Meanwhile, his Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — with the head of Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, imposed on it as Director — is lifting protections of veterans from fraud and loans with exorbitant interest rates.
Glenn Thrush writes for The New York Times:
The Trump Administration is planning to suspend routine examinations of lenders for violations of the Military Lending Act, which was devised to protect military service members and their families from financial fraud, predatory loans and credit card gouging, according to internal agency documents.
Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, intends to scrap the use of so-called supervisory examinations of lenders, arguing that such proactive oversight is not explicitly laid out in the legislation, the main consumer measure protecting active-duty service members, according to a two-page draft of the change.
The agency’s move comes as a Senate committee prepares to vote on the nomination of Kathleen Kraninger to succeed Mr. Mulvaney as chief of the consumer watchdog, which is responsible for protecting consumers from financial abuse.
The proposal surprised advocates for military families, who have urged the government to use its powers to crack down harder on unscrupulous lenders. The consumer bureau conducted dozens of investigations into payday and other lenders during the Obama administration without any significant legal opposition, and no lenders are currently challenging its oversight based on the law, according to administration officials.
The bureau will still bring individual cases against lenders who are found to charge in excess of the annual interest rate cap of 36% mandated under the law, and continue to supervise lenders under other statutes. But it will scrap supervisory examinations, which are the most powerful tool for proactively uncovering abuses and patterns of illegal practices by companies suspected of wrongdoing, former consumer bureau enforcement officials said.
John Czwartacki, a spokesman for Mr. Mulvaney, said the rule change came from a top-to-bottom review of the bureau’s procedures geared at curtailing what the administration, along with lending industry executives, have criticized as overly aggressive enforcement by the bureau’s first director, Richard Cordray.
The agency’s supervisory exams have been critical in uncovering previous instances of wrongdoing and led to several of its biggest fines. In 2014, the bureau fined one of the largest payday lenders in the country, Ace Cash Express, $10 million after determining the company, based in Texas, steered low-income borrowers, including those in the military, into a succession of financially damaging high-interest loans.
Instead of conducting examinations that might find similar patterns, the bureau will now rely solely on complaints funneled through its website, hotlines, the military and people who believe they have been victims of abuse.
“It will go from a proactive system to something that is completely reactive,” said Christopher L. Peterson, a University of Utah law professor who served in a variety of top positions at the bureau from 2012 to 2016. “Over time, it is going to have a real impact on the lives of these people who devote their lives to the service of our country.”