The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will allow payments to victims of financial crime to go forward as usual, the agency’s acting director, Mick Mulvaney said on Monday, reversing a freeze he put in place last week.
The decision was one of several steps to resume ordinary operations at the consumer bureau, Mr. Mulvaney said during a meeting with reporters.
Leadership of the usually low-key agency became the focus of a partisan fight and a court battle last week after the resignation of Richard Cordray, its director and a holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration. Mr. Cordray had named his deputy, Leandra English, as the interim director while President Trump had named Mr. Mulvaney to the same role.
Mr. Mulvaney won the fight and quickly asserted his hold over the agency and its 1,600 employees. On Nov. 27, he ordered an immediate halt to many of the agency’s operations, including hiring, contracting and payments from its civil penalties fund, which compensates victims of financial crimes.
At the time, Mr. Mulvaney said that he would suspend all payments from the fund for at least 30 days, until he had a chance to find out “what that fund is all about.” That drew a rebuke from two Senate Democrats, who sent a letter calling the move “inexplicable.”
But the hold lasted only two days. Mr. Mulvaney said he had removed the hold on Wednesday — the day the agency was scheduled to make one of its twice-annual allocation decisions — and approved the dispersal of payments.
“We’re back to the ordinary course of business on that,” he said.
External hiring remained frozen, but some internal transfers and promotions will move forward, Mr. Mulvaney said.
The case brought by Ms. English challenging Mr. Mulvaney’s claim to be the agency’s acting director was still pending. A federal judge last week refused to grant an emergency injunction that would have given Ms. English control of the bureau while the case is litigated.
Mr. Mulvaney said he had not spoken directly with Ms. English, but has emailed her a few times to request that she carry out various official duties. Mr. Mulvaney said he had no interest in firing her.
Mr. Mulvaney said he planned to split his time between the consumer bureau and the White House Office of Management and Budget, where he was still the director. He will typically spend three days a week at each agency, he said. The consumer bureau gets Saturdays.