WASHINGTON — Serving on an advisory board to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau didn’t come with a salary, but consumer advocate Julie Kalkowski of Omaha considered it some of the most important work of her life.
As the executive director of Creighton University’s financial coaching program, the Financial Hope Collaborative, she was on the board to talk through complex policy issues and offer the perspective of how, say, a particular banking practice was affecting single mothers.
So she was disappointed when acting director Mick Mulvaney decided this week to dissolve the board.
“I’m 60 and I’ve never been fired in my life,” Kalkowski said.
She joined the board last year and attended one meeting in Tampa. Meetings scheduled for earlier this year and this week were canceled.
Kalkowski said Mulvaney’s move to dissolve the board continues an overall direction of the agency away from enforcement and toward deregulation.
“If we continue down this path that it’s been going the last six months we’re going to position ourselves for another crash-and-burn like we had in 2008 and none of us want to do that,” Kalkowski said. “We rode that ride once and we don’t want to ride it again. It was too ugly.”
The law that created the bureau mandates that officials meet with the advisory board at least twice a year. It is the only group of outside experts that the bureau director is required to interact with by law.
But the meetings have repeatedly been canceled under Mulvaney, who has steered the bureau in a more industry-friendly direction since taking charge late last year.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., is a member of the Senate Banking Committee that oversees the agency. Sasse declined to discuss Mulvaney’s decision with The World-Herald. In a statement, he reiterated his longstanding criticism that the bureau’s structure insulates it from congressional oversight and makes it unaccountable.
The plan is for the advisory board to be reconstituted in the fall with new members. Members of two other boards would also be reconstituted.
The agency’s spokesman, John Czwartacki, said “The outspoken members of the Consumer Advisory Board seem more concerned about protecting their taxpayer-funded junkets to Washington, D.C., and being wined and dined by the bureau than protecting consumers.”
Kalkowski laughed at that. She described the meetings as lots of work with basic, no-alcohol meals.
She also took issue with the bureau’s suggestion that it would look for input from roundtables and public forums. Those venues can’t replace in-depth discussions that were possible at the full meetings, she said.
“You can’t make good policy in 60-second sound bites,” she said.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.