A National Consumer Watchdog Shares Perspective on the Cordray Confirmation

The U.S. Senate’s 66-34 vote to confirm Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is “good news’ for credit unions and consumers, according to a Washington-based consumer advocate who chairs a CFPB taskforce.

“The main message is, Rich Cordray’s confirmation is good news for regulated financial institutions such as banks and credit unions,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG).

In an interview with Anthem this week, Mierzwinski lauded the Senate action. “It clears the uncertainty over authority the CFPB had over non-regulated financial services providers such as payday lenders.” Mierzwinski said removing that regulatory cloud will provide banks and credit unions a “level playing field” against some competitors who might not be operating in consumers’ best interests.

U.S. PIRG is well-known for its decades-long reports on dangerous toys, resulting in over 150 recalls, and is also a vigilant voice lobbying for lower banking fees and better lending practices. According to PIRG’s website, Mierzwinski “spearheaded” PIRG’s fight to create the CFBP. He has been on the PIRG staff since 1989, testifies frequently in legislative hearings and is an often-quoted consumer expert in national media outlets. Mierzwinski is chair of the Americans for Financial Reform CFPB Task Force.

The CFPB opened two years ago, designed to expand the federal government’s authority to protect consumers from abusive lenders. It was the brainchild of then-Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, who initially ran the agency before becoming a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.

President Obama nominated Richard Cordray to direct the agency, but confirmation was caught up in bitter Senate gridlock as opponents lamented both the structure of the agency, and the fact that Cordray took office on an interim basis during a Congressional recess. The stalemate ended Tuesday.

“Consumers can consider this a victory,” said Mierzwinski, who added, “I’ve always said, bank with a credit union, not a bank.”

For credit unions, Mierzwinski said, the CFBP will not be the enemy.

“I personally believe the CFPB will not go wild,” he said. “I know they want to keep the regulatory burden on small credit unions low, so I would encourage your Northwest credit union leaders to feel free to reach out to the CFPB.”

 

Questions? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225, lheider@nwcua.org.

Posted in Federal, NCUA, NWCUA.