Leandra English, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s deputy director, said on Friday she is resigning — ending her more than six-month legal battle with the Trump administration for control of the watchdog agency.
English is dropping her lawsuit, which questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s pick to temporarily lead the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney. English cited the Trump administration’s recent nomination of Kathy Kraninger to be the CFPB’s next director for her decision to step down early next week.
“I want to thank all of the CFPB’s dedicated civil servants for your important work on behalf of consumers,” English said in a statement released by her attorney. “It has been my honor to work alongside you.”
English’s resignation and the end of her lawsuit eliminates a major headache for the Trump administration. The legal battle, which is pending before an appeals court, raised the prospect that Mulvaney’s actions as acting director could eventually be challenged in court and left the agency in limbo with two people claiming to be its legitimate acting director.
The dispute thrust English, a typically behind-the-scenes longtime government executive, at the forefront of contentious partisan debate for the future of the bureau.
Republicans have long been critical of the agency, calling it too aggressive. They have cheered Mulvaney’s efforts to reform the bureau, which he once criticized as a “joke.”
Democrats, meanwhile, have characterized the CFPB as one of Congress’s most important responses to the global financial crisis, noting that in a short time it had collected $12 billion in fines from financial firms. Mulvaney, they have said, has been weakening an important consumer watchdog.
English was part of a small team at the Treasury Department that helped launch the CFPB six years ago, including helping establish its early relationship with small banks.
“It felt like we were engaging in retail politics a little bit,” she said in a 2014 Washington Post interview. “Time after time, we would go into a room, especially with community bankers, and you could just feel instantly that they were very skeptical, nervous, not expecting us to be friendly. And by the time we walked out, the tone had completely changed.”
The battle for control of the CFPB began in November when then-Director Richard Cordray resigned and said that English would become acting director. A few hours later, Trump appointed Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to the job instead, sparking a tug-of-war for control.
English filed suit a few days later, and Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who helped conceive of the CFPB while a Harvard University professor, rallied to her side. But a federal judge sided with the Trump administration.
English appealed, but in the meantime, Mulvaney launched a top-to-bottom review of the bureau’s operations, scaling back its enforcement actions, calling for Congress to take away some of its powers and cutting its spending. Then last month, Trump nominated Kathy Kraninger, a White House budget official, to be the next director. Democrats have criticized Kranginer’s lack of experience in consumer finance, but she has already gained the support of powerful Senate Republicans, and the Banking Committee is scheduled to hold her nomination hearing July 19.
The more than six months that the bureau spent with two people claiming to be its acting director has led to some tense moments. Mulvaney showed up for his first day on the job with doughnuts, held a news conference and took over the director’s office. English stayed quiet, meeting at least once with Democratic leaders but not speaking to the media, and working out of a different building than Mulvaney.
They both initially sent emails to CFPB staff calling themselves the agency’s acting director. Mulvaney complained to reporters that he had asked English to stop calling herself by the title but that she never responded. “Yes, Ms. English is in the building from time to time. I have had no interaction with her,” Mulvaney said. They had never met, he has said.