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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

A ‘Bureau’-cratic Debate Over an Agency’s Official Name

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CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney wants to be BCFP acting director. CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney wants to be BCFP acting director. USDA photo

Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (when he’s not occupied with his other job, running the Office of Management and Budget), has a bone to pick about the name of the agency he’s heading up on an interim basis.

"I don't know why we call it the CFPB,” he told a House panel earlier this month. “That is not the name of the organization. The organization is the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection."

Legally, Mulvaney is correct. It’s right there in the statute creating CFPB—err, BCFP: “There is established in the Federal Reserve System, an independent bureau to be known as the 'Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection,' which shall regulate the offering and provision of consumer financial products or services under the Federal consumer financial laws.”

But that bureau, since its creation in 2010, has not been known as the BCFP, but rather as CFPB—possibly to emphasize its consumer protection mission rather than its bureaucratic status. The name is all over the agency’s website and reflected in its logo on official documents.

But that’s changing: In March, the bureau unveiled a new seal incorporating the official name. The shift incorporates traditional federal imagery (unlike the CFPB logo) and “aligns the bureau with the seals of other federal financial regulators,” agency officials said at the time.

Why all the fuss over a bureaucratic moniker? After all, Mulvaney himself has long referred to the agency as the CFPB. But he says he’s committed to changing his ways. “I’m trying to get in the habit of now saying the ‘B.C.F.P.’ It’s really, really hard to do that when you’ve said the C.F.P.B. for so long,” he told a group of banking executives Tuesday. And CFPB has a fairly strong brand.

That may the reason for the shift. The New York Times reported that the new name policy was all part of an effort to “diminish the agency’s public profile.” Political appointees at the bureau have gone so far as to ask the Associated Press to change its style on the agency’s name to BCFP. AP’s standards are followed by many news organizations.

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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