On Feb. 12, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Bureau) published a revised version of its five-year Strategic Plan covering FY 2018 – 2022 (Plan). The Bureau is required to publish a five-year Strategic Plan in accordance with federal law. The Plan sets forth strategic expectations for the Bureau and differs significantly from the draft version issued in October 2017 under former Bureau Director Richard Cordray. From the length of the Plan and the tone of the mission statement to the re-branding of the agency as the “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection,” the Plan lays the groundwork for a divergent course.

Setting the tone for the Bureau’s new direction, Acting Director Mick Mulvaney states in the Plan’s opening message, “We have committed to fulfill the Bureau’s statutory responsibilities, but go no further.” This statement alone marks a significant departure from the tone set under the Bureau’s previous director. Additionally, the statement caused diverse reactions on the intent and purpose of the new strategy, as it suggests that the Bureau will no longer regulate by enforcement – a practice which has drawn much criticism since it began. Mulvaney continued by committing to the language of Section 1021 of the Dodd Frank Act. “By hewing to the statute, this Strategic Plan provides the Bureau a ready roadmap, a touchstone with a fixed meaning that should serve as a bulwark against the misuse of our unparalleled powers,” he said. These comments added to the debate on the direction of the Bureau.

Among other changes from the prior Strategic Plan, the Bureau will now focus on equally protecting the legal rights of all, including those regulated by the Bureau. This will include engaging with regulated entities in the rulemaking where appropriate and help address unwarranted regulatory burdens. The new Plan also states that the Bureau will act with humility and moderation, again marking a stark contrast to how some perceived the Bureau to be regulated under its previous leadership. These statements and the inclusion of regulated entities will likely concern consumer groups and advocates hoping for a tougher Bureau.

The Plan outlines three goals, and for each goal, the Plan describes related objectives and strategies.

Goal 1: Ensure that all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services.

Goal 2: Implement and enforce the law consistently to ensure that markets for consumer financial products and services are fair, transparent and competitive.

Goal 3: Foster operational excellence through efficient and effective processes, governance, and security of resources and information.

Notably, the Plan does not include a focus on enforcement, the prevention of consumer harm or the data-driven emphasis under the previous director. Acting Director Mulvaney’s plan for financial discipline is emphasized several times. The third goal includes a call for the Bureau to “adapt policies, processes, tools and controls to operate more efficiently, effectively, and transparently.”  If the request for zero funding from the Federal Reserve for operating funds did not set the intended message, the course set in the Plan certainly strengthens that direction. Review the entire report here.