By the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Helen Mac Murray, a financial services lawyer in Ohio, had already started drafting a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It had been a tumultuous holiday weekend. The resignation of the agency’s director, Richard Cordray, spurred competing claims for the agency’s acting directorship and a lawsuit over the leadership. On his way out the door, Cordray elevated his chief of staff, Leandra English, to the role of deputy director. Within hours of the announcement of Cordray’s departure, the Trump administration named White House budget director Mick Mulvaney as the agency’s acting chief.

In the appointment of Mulvaney—a former Republican congressman who had once called the CFPB a “joke”—Mac Murray saw an opportunity. A federal judge in San Francisco had just weeks earlier ordered her client Nationwide Biweekly Administration Inc. to pay a nearly $8 million civil penalty for deceptive marketing practices related to a mortgage repayment program. In one respect, the judgment against was a victory, Mac Murray said. The judge, Richard Seeborg, refused to approve the $74 million in restitution that CFPB enforcement lawyers wanted. And, although Seeborg imposed an injunction barring Nationwide Biweekly Administration from making certain statements he found misleading, the court order left room for the company to resume operations and, in time, pay the civil penalty.

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