Biden’s CFPB nominee Rohit Chopra brings ‘substantive’ regulatory expertise

Rohit Chopra, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is likely to return the agency to its original incarnation, proactively rooting out bad actors and levying hefty fines on violators, regulatory experts say. Chopra’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday will be the first of Biden’s regulators to face the Senate Banking Committee.

Chopra’s history with the CFPB dates back to the agency’s inception in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008. He was one of the initial architects of its implementation and served first as its in-house student loan liaison, then as assistant director under the CFPB’s initial leader, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray. Since 2018, Chopra has been a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, a position for which he was approved unanimously by the Senate.

Consumer advocates say this established record of bipartisan support should help facilitate a smooth Senate confirmation process. Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel for the Consumer Federation of America, said she expected Chopra to face questions in his confirmation hearing about where he would reverse course and how he would change the agency’s focus to reinstate it as a robust regulator.

“Rohit will be asked about his priorities and how he will return the agency to its mission to make the financial marketplace more fair for consumers,” she said.

The flip side of enforcement is obtaining restitution for consumers who were taken advantage of by bad actors — another aspect where observers say Chopra is likely to reorient the CFPB’s priorities. “The CFPB [should] return to its critical role as an enforcement agency. Under the last administration, the number of cases, consumer restitution, and settlement amounts were lower,” Weintraub said.

Aaron Klein, senior fellow of economic studies at the Brookings Institution, blamed former President Donald Trump for weakening the agency by turning the reins over to his then-chief of staff Mick Mulvaney after firing Cordray, a change that precipitated a legal battle and was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court.

“Unfortunately, things that should be bipartisan like protecting consumers from getting ripped off have become politicized. The CFPB was highly politicized under Trump,” Klein said.

Mulvaney made no secret of his desire to dismantle the CFPB, labeling it a “sick, sad joke” at the time of its inception when he was a Congressional representative for South Carolina. As acting head of the Bureau, he submitted a budget request for $0, even going so far as to briefly change the organization’s name to the “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.” (The switch was reversed by the full-time director he subsequently installed.)

During the Trump era, oversight and enforcement waned. “Consumer safeguards, enforcement and general monitoring of the financial marketplace, arguably, were mediocre,” said Christine Hines, legislative director for the National Association of Consumer Advocates. “The Bureau became more sympathetic to the regulated entities to the detriment of consumers,” she said — a stance observers predict will be the first thing to go.

Source: NBCNews

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  1. August 5, 2021

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