Opinion

Mulvaney’s Zillow Decision Is Proof Of CFPB Reform

Reuters and Shutetrstock / By Casimiro PT and Jonathan Ernst

Chandler Lassen Chairman Emeritus, South Carolina College Republicans

Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is making great use of his time at one of Washington, D.C.’s best examples of bureaucratic overreach and burdensome hyper-regulation.

Luckily for American consumers, small businesses, and those good-faith actors in the financial services and home-lending sectors, Mulvaney will be able to continue this good work for the foreseeable future.

Just this week, the CFPB announced it had dismissed a lingering three-year investigation into the online real estate database company Zillow, known for providing services, transparency and its “Zestimates” of comparable home prices to house-hunting Americans.

Zillow is used by millions of millennials and Americans young and old as a key resource in home-buying and real estate considerations. Zillow’s alleged “offense” was that the site allowed real estate agents and other related professionals such as lending services to share the cost of advertising on its popular website.

Previous CFPB regulators had opened an inquiry three years ago because they alleged that all this “co-marketing” might run afoul of a 1974 rule that was supposed to be aimed at preventing kickbacks. But on June 22nd, Mulvaney’s CFPB sent a letter to Zillow stating: 1) it had wrapped up its investigation, 2) no further action would be taken against Zillow and 3) no further enforcement actions would be taken against the online housing service.

Well done, Mr. Mulvaney. More of this, please. Created in the wake of the last financial crisis, the CFPB has been a regulatory snapping turtle until only recently.

Former CFPB director Richard Cordray — who didn’t want to vacate his post when a new president was elected and even attempted to appoint his own successor — infamously bragged about “pushing the envelope” where over-regulation of business was concerned.

Under Cordray’s direction, the agency was constantly snapping at businesses over alleged infractions of consumer rules and continuing long-running investigations that never went anywhere and kept small businesses and consumers in limbo and perpetual uncertainty.

One of the CFPB’s favorite tools was to issue something called Civil Investigative Demands. These came with huge compliance costs to businesses in the form of marshaling all of the documents the CFPB wanted. These also came with opportunity costs, as companies that had invested millions of dollars developing new infrastructure or services waited, in many cases, years for the CFPB to tell them they were free to go about their business again.

But Mick Mulvaney, the Trump administration’s acting head of the CFPB, was rightly critical of this and other agency tactics. In an all-staff memo, he warned against the undue costs of multi-year Civil Investigative Demands, and he tried to reorient the way they think about the agency’s mission. It ought not to be for the government to simply snap at businesses for no reason, just to demonstrate its dominance.

“We don’t just work for the government,” Mulvaney explained. “We work for the people, and that means everyone — those who use credit cards and those who provide those cards; those who take loans and those who make them; those who buy cars and those who sell them.”

“All of those people,” he continued, “are part of what makes this country great. And all deserve to be treated fairly by their government.”

Those were great words, and they ought to have some force to them.

The Trump administration has now nominated Kathy Kraninger as the permanent head of the CFPB, and this is a great sign. Her confirmation will likely take some time as Democrats in the Senate are actively working to obstruct her, but Mulvaney will be able to continue as acting director until Kraninger is confirmed.

In what time he has left at the CFPB, Mulvaney should do more of exactly what he has been doing with those good-faith actors, and just did in the Zillow case: clean out the barn; free up businesses and consumers to lend, borrow and plan; make quick determinations one way or the other on enforcement actions; wrap things up; and let companies get back to business. That would be better not just for businesses, but for the American consumers that rely on them.

Mulvaney’s done it right so far in his more-than-5 months as acting CFPB Director. Now, he should continue righting the ship — and Kraninger will be well served to keep it up as well.

Chandler Lassen is the South Carolina College Republicans Chairman Emeritus from the University of South Carolina.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.