Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray on Friday appointed the agency’s chief of staff, Leandra English, as the CFPB’s deputy director, establishing her as his successor when he steps down at the end of the day.
The move appears designed to thwart any move by President Donald Trump to name another temporary official to head the controversial agency. Trump has been reported to be considering White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney for the role.
The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB, explicitly says the consumer bureau’s deputy director shall "serve as acting Director in the absence or unavailability of the Director."
Trump will likely now have to nominate someone who must be confirmed by the Senate before he can oust English.
Cordray’s chess move is the latest drama to engulf an agency that Republicans have targeted since its inception. GOP lawmakers and business executives argue that the consumer bureau regulates through enforcement rather than rulemaking and that its single director has unconstitutional power.
In deciding to leave at the end of the day today, Cordray is speeding up his original timetable of departing at the end of the month, which he announced on Nov. 15.
"Upon my departure, [English] will become the acting Director pursuant to section 1011(b)(5) of the Dodd-Frank Act," Cordray said in a note to staff.
"In considering how to ensure an orderly succession for this independent agency, I determined that it would be best to avoid leaving this key position filled only in an acting capacity," he added. "In consultation over the past few days, I have also come to recognize that appointing the current chief of staff to the deputy director position would minimize operational disruption and provide for a smooth transition given her operational expertise."
Cordray has been rumored to be considering a run for governor of Ohio but has given no indication of his plans.
In his resignation letter, he called serving as the CFPB’s first director "one of the great joys of my life."
English will officially take the role that has been filled on an acting basis since 2015, most recently by David Silberman, who will continue to serve as CFPB’s associate director of research, markets and regulations.
She has held several leadership positions at the CFPB, including deputy chief operating officer, acting chief of staff, and deputy chief of staff.
“Leandra is a seasoned professional who has spent her career of public service focused on promoting smooth and efficient operations,” Cordray said in his statement. “As deputy director, we will continue to benefit from Leandra’s in-depth knowledge of the operational needs of this agency and its staff.”
English has also previously held senior positions at the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management.
Financial companies, which have long criticized Cordray as overly aggressive, decried the move.
“Today’s actions by former CFPB Director Richard Cordray in appointing his own Acting Director to lead the bureau reinforces the problematic nature of having a single and completely unaccountable leader," said Chris Stinebert, head of the American Financial Services Association, which represents installment lenders, in a statement.
"The decision to choose who should lead the country’s consumer protection agency, and confusion that’s been caused by Cordray’s own ‘succession plan,’ should not be made by one individual and for this reason AFSA has long advocated the need for a bipartisan commission,” he added.