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Consumers win as Senate confirms Cordray as CFPB director

Vote marks a key turning point in preventing financial scams

Published: July 2013

Consumers scored a big victory in the halls of Congress on July 16 when the Senate voted to confirm Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency that helps to police banks, lenders, debt collectors, credit-reporting companies, and other parts of the financial-services industry.

The CFPB, created in 2010 as part of a sweeping Wall Street reform law, opened its doors in 2011. But industry lobbyists and lawmakers who had opposed the bureau weren’t ready to give up the fight, and they’ve spent the last three years trying to put a muzzle on this watchdog. In fact, when Cordray was nominated to be the first CFPB director, a group of senators said they wouldn’t allow a vote on any nominee unless big changes were made to weaken the bureau’s authority. So Cordray was appointed only as an interim chief without full powers for the CFPB.

To learn more about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and what it means to you, check out the CFPB website and our

But under Cordray, who’d earned high praise for fighting for consumers as Ohio attorney general, the bureau managed several notable accomplishments. CFPB enforcement actions have already resulted in $425 million in refunds to 6 million consumers hit by deceptive financial practices. The bureau has also helped resolve more than 133,000 consumer complaints about credit cards, mortgages, student loans, bank accounts, and other services.

Still, without a formal confirmation by the Senate, Cordray was looking at the very real prospect of having to leave the job at the end of this year, and the future of the CFPB was in serious doubt.

Determined not to let the CFPB go down like that, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, generated more than 240,000 signatures, e-mails, and phone calls to urge Congress to confirm Cordray. We held a telephone town hall meeting to rally people to contact their senators and tell them to do the right thing. And we joined with other consumer groups to keep the pressure on Capitol Hill.

When the political stalemate over Cordray came to a head this month, the Senate worked out an agreement to let his nomination come up for consideration without watering down the bureau. The 66-to-34 vote to confirm Cordray was a strong, bipartisan show of support. While opponents might continue looking for ways to weaken the CFPB, the bureau now has a full-fledged director and moves forward with full powers to help consumers.

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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