WASHINGTON — Two top Democratic senators accused the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney, of “starving” the agency of data used to help write new rules.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mark Warner of Virginia submitted a letter to the agency Monday as part of a comment period for public input on whether to change the CFPB’s rulemaking process. The lawmakers emphasized that the agency should maintain data collection as part of its rulemaking process, while also warning that Mulvaney has been pulling back on gathering data “without any justification.”

“The CFPB has used this authority to responsibly collect data while protecting individual privacy, to produce ground-breaking reports, and ultimately to write new rules that protect consumers and crack down on consumer scams,” the two senators wrote. “Starving the CFPB of data, as Mr. Mulvaney has been doing, undermines the CFPB.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
Sen. Mark Warner, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, submitted a letter to the CFPB Monday urging officials to continue to use consumer data in writing new rules. Bloomberg News

The senators pointed in the letter to several actions Mulvaney took after being appointed as acting director of the CFPB in late 2017, including directing staff not to collect personally identifiable data due to privacy concerns.

He also withdrew a plan to conduct a web survey related to a proposed rulemaking on debt collection.

Mulvaney has since lifted the freeze on collecting data. But the senators said in their letter that “other measures to undermine the agency by starving it of data remain in effect,” pointing, for example, to another request for information regarding whether or not to keep the CFPB’s public complaint portal private.

The request for information on the CFPB’s rulemaking process is among a dozen such requests that Mulvaney has issued in recent months that seek comment on how to change almost every aspect of the agency — including rulemaking, supervision and enforcement.

For months, Warren has challenged Mulvaney’s actions in a series of letters. Mulvaney has repeatedly said that he wants the agency to focus on more quantitative analysis than qualitative when considering regulations.

“While qualitative analysis certainly can play a role, it should not be to the exclusion of measurable ‘costs and benefits,’ ” Mulvaney wrote in a Jan. 23 article in The Wall Street Journal. “There will be a lot more math in our future.”

Warren and Warner, however, expressed skepticism regarding that approach in their Monday letter.

“Mulvaney claims that he values cost-benefit analysis and fact-based decision-making, but rolling back data collection makes this impossible, harming consumers and businesses,” they wrote. “As the CFPB evaluates its rulemaking process, we urge Mr. Mulvaney and the CFPB to keep data central to the execution of its mission to protect consumers.”

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