The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The CFPB tried to change its name. Here’s why it’s giving up.

For nearly a year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has struggled to execute a controversial plan — changing its name.

The watchdog agency has been known as the CFPB since opening its doors in 2011, but its former acting director, Mick Mulvaney, a Trump appointee, believed it should instead be called the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, or BCFP. The letters of the bureau’s name were shuffled on the walls of its headquarters in the District to reflect the change, and Mulvaney started using the new acronym — BCFP — in public. Even the bureau’s seal and flag were changed.

But the new name never stuck, and on Wednesday, the bureau’s new director, Kathy Kraninger, ditched the idea.

“To be clear, I care much more about what we do than what we are called,” Kraninger said in an email to staff Wednesday morning.

The proposed name change was always controversial. Mulvaney, a longtime critic of the bureau who called for its closure as a congressman, argued the proposed new name more closely hews to language in the agency’s founding legislation. Bureau staff were instructed to begin altering the name on PowerPoint presentations, white papers and other documents. Some were asked to serve on a “Name Correction Working Group,” internal records obtained by The Post show.

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But critics called the effort a costly stunt aimed at undermining the bureau’s identity. The bureau’s founding legislation uses both names, they say. Then the Hill newspaper, citing an agency analysis, reported that the name change could cost the agency up to $19 million and financial firms up to $300 million, expenses for changing the name on internal databases and regulatory documents.

Earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who came up with the idea for the bureau as a Harvard law professor, called for an investigation into the attempted name change. The CFPB spent years raising awareness among consumers that it was a destination for help if someone is wronged by a financial company, Warren said in a letter requesting the inquiry. “Changing the agency’s name and acronym would make it harder for consumers to find the agency’s website, file complaints, and seek help,” she said.

In one of her first acts as the bureau’s new director, Kraninger backed away from the name-change effort. “After being fully briefed on the costs, operational challenges and the effect on stakeholders,” the bureau is halting the name-change effort, she said in the email.

Mulvaney’s preferred name — BCFP — will still be used in official documents, but the more recognizable CFPB will be used otherwise, Kraninger said. “In other words, we have a legal name, but will be using our colloquial name and the branded acronym ‘CFPB,’ " she said.