The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a shiny new website and logo, and in Arrested Development style, Ron Howard has narrated an explainer video about the agency. It does a pretty good job of explaining how consumer protection in the financial space has now been located in one agency, with the power to make financial services safer and easier to understand for the consumer. Elizabeth Warren clearly wrote the copy, and she appears in this video calling for public suggestions on what the CFPB should do. It asks for responses via email, YouTube video, or on Twitter using the hashtag #CFPB. The bureau has already spotlighted consumer complaints it has received, which correspond to future areas of emphasis.

What this website doesn’t cover is the urgent need for a director before the july handoff from Treasury to the Federal Reserve. Without a director in place, the CFPB could not regulate any new responsibilities given to it by Dodd-Frank, though it could oversee older consumer protection rules from other agencies. Basically, nonbank lenders would get off the hook. So we need a director now.

Mike Konczal argues compellingly that Elizabeth Warren remains the best choice to head the bureau, and even that she would not have as hard a time as expected getting confirmed.

Warren is obviously credentialed enough — a Harvard Law professor who came up with the idea, who has written extensively on the topic and is the third most cited scholar on bankruptcy and consumer-related finances. During the previous debate, there were three major critiques about her running the CFPB: that she wasn’t experienced enough in starting a new agency, that she was disliked by industry, and that she wasn’t confirmable. Since then she’s done an excellent job starting up the agency, hitting the ground running. She has stalemated the critiques from industry and Republicans. And the Republicans have shown that they hate the agency itself but don’t actually mind Warren as far as candidates go, so she’s relatively more confirmable than people imagine. She’s made as good of a transition from campaigning to governing as anyone would have expected, and then some.

Konczal highlights her work staffing up the agency with solid names, working with community banks, highlighting her principles-based approach for consumer protection that has even been seen as positive by the industry, and even her support from Republicans (it’s actually there). In short, she wouldn’t face any higher a threshold than other worthy candidates for the job, and she clearly knows the agency best. She passed the audition and should get a shot at a permanent role.

I’m fairly certain the White House doesn’t see it this way, but a Warren nomination would be good for their image with the base, and no more controversial than the alternative. Republicans have a problem with the agency, not necessarily with Elizabeth Warren.

It’s possible Warren doesn’t want the hassle at all, and would rather run for US Senate or return to Harvard or do anything other than sit on her hands for months while the confirmation battle gets hashed out. But she’s certainly the most qualified candidate for the position, and the one whom would give the agency its best chance at success.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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