WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal judge once again sided with the White House in the battle for control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, denying last Wednesday a request by CFPB Deputy Director Leandra English for a preliminary injunction to remove President Donald Trump’s appointee as acting head of the agency.
The ruling comes less than 50 days after U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly denied English’s request for a restraining order to block President Trump’s appointment of White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as acting director. It now sets the stage for an appeal by English, who has said she is the rightful acting director.
“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.”
Judge Kelly originally denied English’s request for a temporary restraining order to block Mulvaney’s appointment on Nov. 28. The ruling, however, pertained to the restraining order and not the merits of the case, with English’s attorney Deepak Gupta hinting that Kelly’s ruling “would not be the final answer.”
Gupta then filed an amendment complaint on behalf of English on Dec. 6 requesting a preliminary injunction. Unlike the temporary restraining order, the injunction can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit if not granted. Gupta gave no indication that Wednesday’s ruling would be appealed, although he expressed disappointment in Kelly’s decision in a Twitter post.
“The law is clear: President Trump may not circumvent the Senate confirmation process by installing his White House budget director to run the CFPB part time,” Gupta wrote. “Mr. Mulvaney’s appointment undermines the bureau’s independence and threatens its mission to protect American consumers.”
When Cordray formally resigned as CFPB director on Nov. 24, he elevated English, his former chief of staff, to deputy director. The move 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 through the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA). English filed suit two days later 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 on Nov. 30.
Dodd joined former Rep. Barney Frank and more than 30 current and former members of Congress in writing one of five separate amicus briefs in support of English’s position. In Wednesday’s ruling, however, Judge Kelly said that argument is completely without support in the text of the Dodd-Frank, adding that the court “declines to create such a restriction out of whole cloth.”
“Simply put, Dodd-Frank does not prohibit the director of the OMB from also serving as the acting director of the CFPB,” Kelly wrote in his ruling.
“The President has designated Mulvaney the CFPB’s acting director, the CFPB has recognized him as the acting director, and it is operating with him as acting director,” Kelly continued. “Granting English an injunction would not bring about more clarity; it would only serve to muddy the waters.”