November 16, 2017
Richard Cordray has announced that he will be stepping down as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has been a lightning rod for critics of the Bureau. Those of us who believe that predatory behavior was endemic in consumer financial services markets like the mortgage market, think that he and the Bureau has done a great job in reducing that behavior. Cordray wrote, in an email to his staff,
I wanted to share with each of you directly what I have told the senior leadership in the past few days, which is that I expect to step down from my position here before the end of the month.
As I have said many times, but feel just as much today as I ever have, it has been a joy of my life to have the opportunity to serve our country as the first director of the Consumer Bureau by working alongside all of you here. Together we have made a real and lasting difference that has improved people’s lives, notably: $12 billion in relief recovered for nearly 30 million consumers; stronger safeguards against irresponsible mortgage practices that caused the financial crisis and hurt millions of Americans; giving people a voice by handling over 1.3 million complaints that led to problems getting fixed for vast numbers of individuals, and creating new ways to bring financial education to the public so that people can take more control over their economic lives. None of this could have happened without all of us being dedicated to pull together in supporting and protecting people and making every consumer count. I will always be immensely proud of you and what you have done.
At the same time, there is always more work that lies ahead. That would be true at any point, of course, and one thing I have tried to reinforce this year is that the Consumer Bureau is far more than its director. I am confident that you will continue to move forward, nurture this institution we have built together, and maintain its essential value to the American public. And I trust that new leadership will see that value also and work to preserve it – perhaps in different ways than before, but desiring, as I have done, to serve in ways that benefit and strengthen our economy and our country.
My gratitude and appreciation for what you mean to me and to our nation is deep and lasting, and I will be taking the opportunity to make that clear to you in person over the days ahead.
As Cordray hints at, there will be a lot of jockeying over his replacement. Some of the leading names are ideologically opposed to some of the Bureau’s activist approaches to consumer protection. Potential successors, such as Vice President Pence’s Chief Economist Mark Calabria, George Mason Law Professor Todd Zywicki and retiring House Financial Services Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Tx), would likely severely curtail enforcement activity and pull back the Bureau’s regulatory agenda to give financial services companies more freedom to develop new products and more breathing room if they are accused of predatory behavior. I think this would be wrongheaded, particularly given our experience with the Subprime Boom and Bust in the 2000s.
But I am more worried by potential candidates such as Brian Brooks who was general counsel at OneWest when Secretary Mnuchin was the CEO there. Given OneWest’s treatment of mortgage borrowers, confirming a Director Brooks would be more like putting a fox put in charge of henhouse protection regulation.
Maybe now a commission structure for the Bureau does not look so bad to consumer protection advocates!| Permalink