On December 6, 2018, the Senate majority confirmed Kathleen Kraninger by a vote of 50-49 to be the new Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau). Kraninger replaces Mick Mulvaney who has served as Acting Director since the end of 2017 when the last permanent Director, Richard Cordray resigned. Kraninger will serve a five-year term.
Kraninger comes from the Office of Budget and Management (OMB), where she has served as the Program Associate Director for General Government. Prior to serving at OMB, Kraninger clerked for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security where she assisted with overseeing the budget for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Kraninger has also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Director of the Screening Coordination Office at the Office of Homeland Security (OHS), as well as an Advisor to the Secretary for Policy at the Department of Transportation (DOT).
Kraninger's nomination back in June 2018 took many in the financial services industry by surprise, and her confirmation process has been contentious. While many of her supporters (and Kraninger herself during the nomination hearings) focused on her experiences with budgetary issues and governmental management—and promises to bring those skills to the top role at the Bureau—critics of the new CFPB Director have highlighted her lack of experience with, or exposure to, the types of consumer financial regulatory issues under the Bureau purview.
Considering Kraninger's ties to OMB and work with the current Acting Director, many commentators have speculated that she will continue to pursue his course of deregulation through rule-writing and enforcement as a last resort. Indeed, Kraninger stated during her nomination hearing that she "cannot identify any actions that [Mulvaney] has taken with which [she] disagree[s]." Kraninger has not shed much light on what her goals will be as the Bureau Director, or how she views the agency's purpose and mission.
As Kraninger steps into the role of Director, the Bureau has several high-profile items on its stated agenda for 2019 and beyond, including assessing the Truth in Lending Act ("TILA")-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule ("TRID", or the "Know Before You Owe" Rule), analyzing the disparate impact doctrine under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), preparing a proposal to define the "abusiveness" prong under its unfair or deceptive acts or practices (UDAAP) authority, and reconsidering the Payday Rule, among other items. It also has significant supervisory activity underway and pending enforcement litigation.
It is also unclear as to how the recent election and Democratic Party control of the House of Representatives will impact Kraninger's agenda. California Representative Maxine Waters, the expected next Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee has already indicated that she intends to use her authority to monitor and investigate the Bureau's performance, and call Kraninger to testify at hearings. Representative Waters stated that she is "committed to ensuring [the CFPB's] statutorily mandated mission is not undermined." It remains to be seen how Kraninger's confirmation and role as Bureau Director will affect the direction and agenda of the agency, and what implications it may have for participants in the consumer financial industry. One thing is certain, Congress will be watching.