Mulvaney Looks to Weaken Oversight of Military Lending

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Mr. Czwartacki, who said Mr. Mulvaney is urging Congress to quickly pass a measure that would give him the power to resume supervisory examinations, noted that the agency’s goal was “to protect service members, but we also have to abide by the law.”

“We are 100 percent committed to seeing that happens,” he added.

But the banking and payday industries are likely to fight any such legislation and quick passage is anything but guaranteed. The industry has been lobbying to loosen enforcement for years, in part by trying to exempt an array of fees from the 36 percent rate cap.

Industry groups, while expressing broad support for protecting members of the military from financial predators, have tried to chip away at restrictions imposed on lenders under the law. In June 2017, the Consumer Bankers Association, the trade association of auto, payday and other retail lenders, sent the Defense Department a lengthy list of changes to the law that would benefit its membership.

“It’s basically about greed,” said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, who is a co-sponsor of the bill. “The industry has been pushing for this because they want to make more than 36 percent — I mean, who needs more than 36 percent to make a profit?”

“We need a constant and systematic review of these companies — not just individual cases brought by the executive officer of a unit, reporting one incident at a time,” said Mr. Reed, who observed financial abuses firsthand when he served as a company commander in the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C. in the 1970s.

Many service members enter the military in their late teens or early 20s with little credit history, and are often targeted by auto loan financiers, credit card companies and retail stores that hide high financing costs behind low down payments and short-term teaser rates.

Over the last decade, Department of Defense studies have found that military members, their families and veterans are four times as likely to be targeted by unscrupulous lenders. Money woes, the studies also found, are a significant source of morale problems among service members.

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