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Let the watchdog do its job

It’s time for the Senate to confirm the director of the CFPB

Published: July 2013

After the banking and mortgage collapse in 2008, it became brutally clear that this country needed a watchdog to look out for consumers and go after financial abuses. That’s why Congress passed a law in 2010 to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is there to make sure that loans, credit cards, mortgages, and other financial products and services work better for you.

To head the bureau, the White House tapped Richard Cordray, who had earned a stellar reputation for fighting for consumers as Ohio attorney general. However, with a political stalemate in Congress delaying Cordray’s confirmation indefinitely, he became CFPB director through a recess appointment by President Obama in 2012.

Under Cordray’s watch, the CFPB has returned $425 million in refunds to some 6 million consumers hit by deceptive financial practices such as false and misleading credit-card offers. The bureau has also helped to resolve more than 133,000 financial-services complaints.

With that track record, we were pleased when Cordray was renominated for the position earlier this year. But unfortunately, it’s déjà vu all over again in Congress. Cordray's confirmation faces political opposition in the Senate, thanks to a group of lawmakers who refuse to confirm any director until changes are made to the CFPB, alterations that would weaken its ability to protect consumers.

With Cordray’s original appointment expiring at the end of this year, the clock is now ticking.

If you would like to participate in future events such our telephone town hall, sign up to get notifications from Consumers Union.

Without a director, the CFPB has a much tougher time doing its job. Having a strong and fully operational CFPB is critical to protecting consumers from deceptive and predatory practices by credit-card companies, debt collectors, private student-loan companies, and other lenders.

To make sure consumers know what’s at stake and how they can get involved, Jim Guest, president and CEO of Consumer Reports, hosted a telephone town hall meeting with consumers on June 25. He was joined by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), one of the architects of the CFPB. Listen to audio of the meeting.

Guest and Warren answered questions from consumers about how the bureau can help them, why there is opposition on Capitol Hill, and where Cordray’s confirmation stands now. They encouraged consumers to reach out and tell their senators how important it is to confirm Cordray.

Even if you missed our telephone town hall, it’s not too late to make your voice heard in Washington. A vote is expected on Cordray’s nomination in the coming weeks, so don't delay in telling your Senator that you want a strong financial watchdog.

Consumers have fought too hard for Congress to let the CFPB falter now. For the first time, we have an institution whose main job is to look out for consumers in the notoriously difficult and confusing financial-services marketplace. That’s why Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, will keep working to make sure that the watchdog stays strong.

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the public-policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.

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