Richard Cordray, President Obama’s nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, reiterated his commitment to “evenhanded, fair, and reasonable” enforcement of the nation’s consumer protection laws at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee yesterday.
In his testimony, Cordray explained how his experiences in Ohio provided him with a deep appreciation for the importance of consumer protection laws:
As I went about that task, I was deeply impressed by the importance of consumer finance issues and the growing difficulties they pose for families and households. Although I found that many delinquent taxpayers were not willing to pay their share until we moved aggressively to enforce the law against them, I also found something different and noteworthy: many individuals did not want to be in trouble, and wanted to pay their share, but were in tough circumstances through no fault of their own. Sometimes it was because of the loss of a job. Other times I would find that it was because of a death or serious illness in their family or because of a divorce that heaped on the added expense of running two households instead of just one.
Out of these experiences, I developed a strong resolve to address these kinds of financial difficulties that confront our communities. I quickly learned that there is no such thing as a one size-fits-all solution as we seek to aid those who want to do the right thing and, when necessary, to thwart those who seek to take advantage of others.
Cordray’s record of public service has won him support from across the political spectrum. Former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine, who defeated Cordray in his re-election bid as Ohio attorney general, said that Cordray was “very well-qualified for this job.”
The civil and human rights community has said that his history of going after predatory lenders and protecting consumers makes him the right guy to head up the CFPB. In a September 2 letter to the committee, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said:
Richard Cordray’s nomination to head the CFPB could not come at a more important time for the communities represented by The Leadership Conference. The Center for Responsible Lending has estimated that the financial crisis has resulted in losses of $194 billion in the African-American community and $177 billion the Latino community, due in large part to predatory and even unlawful practices in the mortgage lending and servicing industries. The CFPB is the agency best suited to help American families respond to this crisis and get back on their feet, by ensuring that finance providers operate in a more fair and transparent manner in the future. But in order to do this, the CFPB needs a strong and capable leader at the helm, and it needs one soon. We believe Richard Cordray is extraordinarily well-suited for this role, and we urge you to support his prompt confirmation.
Despite Cordray’s qualifications and support, his nomination will face a difficulty in the Senate, where some senators have vowed to block any nominee unless the CFPB is restructured so that it has less autonomy to enforce consumer protection laws.
“[T]o gain its [the CFPB] full authority to protect consumers, it needs a confirmed director. General Cordray has been fair to banks and other firms that play fair, but a tough enforcer to those that do not. It is time for the Senate to put politics behind and put consumers, servicemembers, students and seniors first,” said Americans for Financial Reform, in a letter signed by over 60 local, state and national organizations.