WASHINGTON, D.C. — Leandra English, who former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray’s picked to succeed him as acting director, is ending her court battle to unseat Mick Mulvaney as acting head of the bureau and her employment with the embattled regulator.
On Friday, English’s attorney, Deepak Gupta, posted a statement on Twitter that English is stepping down from her role as deputy director and that she plans to file court papers today to bring her litigation over the leadership of the CFPB to a close following President Trump’s nomination of Kathy Kraniger as permanent director of the agency.
“I will be stepping down from my position at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau early next week, having made this decision in light of the recent nomination of a new director,” the statement, attributed to English, reads. “I want to thank all of the CFPB’s dedicated career civil servants for your important work on behalf of consumers. It has been an honor to work alongside you.”
On Monday, Mulvaney announced that Brian Johnson, who currently serves as the bureau's principal policy director, will assume the bureau's second leadership post as acting director. Prior to his appointment to the CFPB, Johnson served as senior counsel to Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) at the House Financial Services Committee.
Mulvaney described Johnson as an "indispensable advisor," noting that he was the first person he hired at the bureau. "Brian knows the bureau like the back of his hand. He approaches his role as a public servant with humility and unsurpassed dedication," Mulvaney said in a statement released late Monday. "His steady character, work ethic, and commitment to free markets and consumer choice make him exactly what our country needs at this agency."
When Cordray resigned on Nov. 24, 2017, he elevated English, his former chief of staff, to deputy director — a move that established her as acting director until the Senate confirms Trump’s permanent appointee.
Hours after Cordray’s announcement, Trump appointed Mulvaney as acting director, citing his authority under the Federal Vacancies Act (FVRA) of 1988. English filed suit two days later (Nov. 26) to block the appointment, arguing that she was the rightful acting director due to a successor statute in the CFPB-creating Dodd-Frank Act.
English’s attorneys also questioned whether allowing Mulvaney, who once characterized the bureau as a “sick joke,” to continue serving as a White House official would compromise the bureau’s independence. The argument was backed by the former lawmakers who championed the CFPB-creating Dodd-Frank Act.
“That was our intent, to strip this away from the politics of the moment, to give consumers the sense of confidence that there was one place here — when it came to their financial services — [where] there would be people watching out for them, regardless of political party or partisanship,” said former Sen. Chris Dodd during media call this past November.
On Nov. 29, three days after filing suit, English’s request for a restraining order to block Mulvaney’s appointment was denied by U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly. English’s attorneys then filed an amended complaint on Dec. 6, 2017, requesting a preliminary injection to remove Mulvaney as acting head of the agency. That request was also denied by Kelly, a ruling set the stage for English’s appeal.
“The Court finds that English is not likely to succeed on the merits of her claims, nor is she likely to suffer irreparable harm absent the injunctive relief sought,” Judge Kelly wrote in his 46-page decision. “Moreover, the balance of the equities and the public interest also weigh against granting the relief. Therefore, English has not met the exacting standard to obtain a preliminary injunction.”
Kelly’s ruling set the stage for English’s appeal, on which a three-judge federal appeal panel in Washington, D.C., has yet to issue a ruling.
On June 19, Trump nominated Kraninger, a White House budget official who works under Mulvaney and served as an aide to several Republican senators, to serve as the next director of the bureau. The announcement came a week before Mulvaney’s interim term was set to end.
"I have never worked with a more qualified individual than Kathy. Her commitment to the law, to protecting consumers and to defending what works in our vibrant financial services sector, all while respecting hard-working taxpayers who pay their bills and play by the rules ensures that the bureau will be in good hands throughout her term,” Mulvaney said in a statement issued the same day Kraninger’s nomination was announced. “Vigorous independence, sharp-as-a-tack intelligence, and simple, old-fashioned, Midwestern humility make her the ultimate public servant. I know that my efforts to rein in the bureaucracy at the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to make it more accountable, effective and efficient will be continued under her able stewardship."
Critics like Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, however, have questioned Kraninger’s qualifications for the job because of her lack of experience in financial regulation or consumer protection..@realDonaldTrump’s nominee to run the @CFPB, Kathy Kraninger, has no track record of helping consumers, Warren, who considered the architect of the CFPB, tweeted the day Kraninger’s appointment was announced. “That’s bad news for seniors, servicemembers, students — and anyone else who doesn’t want to get cheated. And it gets even worse.”
As for English’s Friday announcement, Warren said the following in a statement: “From the earliest days of the CFPB, Leandra has directed her passion and formidable skills to building a strong, professional agency that stands up for consumers. I’m grateful for her service and wish her the best in her future endeavors.