US President Barack Obama overrode a Republican blockade in the Senate today when he appointed Richard Cordray as director of The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The new agency, which was designated the key regulator and protector of the average citizen over the Wall Street wealthy when financial regulations were overhauled 18 months ago, has, until now, been crippled by its lack of leadership.
Consumer advocates are applauding Mr. Obama’s appointment. Senate Republicans, however, expressed anger at the President’s move, which they are calling an unprecedented end run that has let him circumnavigate the confirmation process. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed concern that Obama’s “cavalier action” could damage the Constitution’s established system of checks and balances.
However, (the Los Angeles Times reports that) not only will this appointment likely be challenged in court, but also, it could raise doubts about how much influence it will really have as a government watchdog for consumers in the financial marketplace—especially if Cordray’s appointment is later found to be unconstitutional.
In the meantime, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can now really get to work. Among its numerous powers are the ability to act against financial firms that sell products or take part in practices that are considered deceptive, unfair, or abusive (involving instruments such as prepaid charge cards and private education loans) and the ability to create new regulations for credit cards, mortgages, and other banking products.
Obama nominated Cordray, who was formerly Ohio attorney general and had taken aggressive action when investigating the mortgage and banking industries, in July. While 53 senators voted to confirm him, Cordray was 60 votes short of what he needed to beat a Republican filibuster.
The US Constitution gives our nation’s president the authority to fill temporary vacancies when the Senate isn’t in session. This power has allowed past presidents to use temporary appointments to overcome Senate opposition to nominees. However, with recess appointments, unless they are later confirmed, appointees can only serve for two years.
Following his appointment today, Cordray vowed to make supervising nonbank financial institutions a primary priority. Until now, these companies have had little oversight. In a blog post published on the bureau’s Web site, Cordray spoke about the CFPB now being able to help the banking and nonbanking markets run “fairly, transparently, and competitively.” He also spoke about how the lack of “regular federal oversight” leading up to the financial crisis resulted in community banks, credit unions, and other businesses ignoring responsibility even as consumers were harmed.
Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP is a stockbroker fraud law firm that represents victims of securities fraud.
Appointment Clears the Way for Consumer Agency to Act, NY Times, January 4, 2011
Richard Cordray appointment ‘turns lights on’ at consumer bureau, Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2011
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