The court decision, handed down by the D.C. Court of Appeals, ruled that the CFPB's single-director structure is constitutional and that the director cannot be fired without cause. It's unclear at this point whether the ruling will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Critics of the agency, including Republicans and industry groups, have argued that having one person at the helm created an agency that was overreaching and unaccountable. The fact that the CFPB gets its funding from the Federal Reserve, which means Congress is unable to weigh in on the agency's budget, is another point of contention.
Mulvaney, who was named to the position by President Donald Trump after the resignation of Obama appointee Richard Cordray in November, has been reviewing or undoing some of what was implemented under his predecessor. Moves undertaken at the agency since Mulvaney took over include:
1. Suspended disbursements from its Civil Penalty Fund in late November. It initially was announced as a 30-day freeze, but it's unclear whether money from the fund — which is used to compensate wronged consumers — has resumed paying out. (CNBC reached out to the CFPB for an update on the fund and did not receive one.)
2. Requested no funding from the Federal Reserve for the second quarter, although Mulvaney pointed to a surplus that he intends to spend down before requesting more money.
3. Backed off implementing a rule requiring so-called payday lenders to make sure consumers can afford these short-term loans, which typically come with high interest rates. The agency last month said it is reconsidering the measure.
4. Started issuing a series of requests for information in January to evaluate various functions of the bureau. The most recent one was issued last Wednesday regarding the CFPB's evaluation of its judicial process. It came a week after the first one, which seeks input on how the agency demands information from companies. Next up: an evaluation of its enforcement processes. The agency says the idea is to improve outcomes for both consumers and the companies under the CFPB's jurisdiction.
5. Moved the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity out of the agency's supervision and enforcement division last week. The office had focused on pursuing cases against financial companies accused of running afoul of discrimination laws and now will focus on education, coordination and advocacy. The agency said it will continue pursuing those cases through its enforcement division.
While consumer advocates are cheering the recent court decision as confirmation that the agency was created to operate free from political or Wall Street influence, they acknowledge it's only one mark in the win column for them.
"The court is saying the head of this agency is supposed to be independent," said Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice. "It doesn't fix everything but it's a lot better than the court not saying that."