Republicans are still going full bore against Richard Cordray’s recess appointment, while outside groups are weighing legal challenges. But Obama’s newly installed director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is pressing ahead with his leadership of the controversial watchdog agency. Laying out his agenda on Thursday, Cordray said that the CFPB’s work itself would ultimately win over its critics in Congress, adding that he’d “leave the details to others” in terms of the legal questions surrounding his appointment.
“It’s a valid appointment. I’m now the director of the bureau...We now have our full authority to move forward,” Cordray said in his first public speech as CFPB’s director. “The most important thing is to keep our nose to the grindstone and keep doing our work...we will prove our own case both to people who represent the public and to the public at large.”
Cordray cast the bureau as a staunch consumer advocate that would listen to the grievances of ordinary Americans who felt they’d been misled or defrauded. “Consumers deserve to have someone to stand on their side. They don’t expect any special favors, they just want a fair shake,” he said, echoing President Obama’s recent rhetoric on income inequality.
Though the bureau didn’t have an official director until Wednesday, the CFPB has been up and running since July as part of Dodd-Frank’s implementation, with Cordray serving as head of its enforcement division. Going forward, Cordray laid out the bureau’s two major priorities: first, demanding greater transparency about consumer financial products and improving consumer education; and second, pursuing enforcement actions against financial firms that have defrauded consumers or otherwise violated federal rules. “The consumer bureau will make clear that there are real consequences to breaking the law,” he said.
Cordray said the bureau had already taken over and initiated its own investigations into such firms. But he declined to elaborate upon which cases they were focusing on or how the CFPB would carry out its enforcement duties — whether, for example, it would focus on lawsuits against financial firms, as Cordray had aggressively pursued in his previous job as Ohio’s attorney general. He added the bureau has also begun its oversight of “payday lenders, mortgage servicers, mortgage originators, private student lenders” and other “nonbank” financial firms that were largely unregulated before the passage of Wall Street reform.
Cordray said that the ongoing controversy about his appointment — as well as the very existence of the bureau — would not alter his agenda or the CFPB’s path forward. But he also suggested that Republicans had opposed his nomination out of principle, not partisan politics. “I’m not someone who impugns people’s motives,” he said, referring to the GOP objections. “I believe people are trying to do what’s right.”