Richard Cordray will make his first appearance on Capitol Hill today since President Obama recess appointed him as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Senate Republicans blocked Cordray’s nomination — and promised to block anyone nominated for the director’s position — but now that the fledgling agency has a director, it can finally begin fulfilling its mandate to protect consumers from the predatory lending practices that were rampant prior to the financial crisis and during the recession that followed.
That Cordray is now the director will likely not quell Republican attacks on the agency or skepticism of his agenda. When Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, who conceived the idea of the CFPB and was once the favorite to be its first director, testified before Congress last year, she faced relentless attacks from House Republicans who oppose the Bureau.
But despite GOP opposition, the CFPB has begun taking important steps toward fulfilling its mission. Based on Cordray’s prepared remarks and other reports, ThinkProgress compiled a rundown of the programs the CFPB has already established to aid consumers and the steps it plans to take in the future:
Supervising financial institutions and enforcing the law: In 2011, the CFPB launched a large bank supervision program aimed at ensuring that the nation’s biggest banks comply with federal consumer financial laws. It will also add heightened supervision of nonbanks, like mortgage lenders, servicers, brokers, payday lenders, and consumer reporting agencies. Such supervision should prevent the predatory and discriminatory lending and foreclosure fraud that played a role in the financial crisis. The CFPB has already begun enforcement actions, cooperating with state investigations into lending and foreclosures and filing lawsuits of its own against lenders that broke the law.
Establishing programs to help consumers: The CFPB has already established multiple programs to aid consumers and is in the process of creating others. Know Before You Owe was launched to bring transparency to the financial industry, allowing consumers to better understand agreements made on mortgage, student loan, and credit card lending. The Office of Servicemember Affairs has been tasked with aiding and educating current and former members of the military — many of whom were among the biggest victims of the housing crisis and the deceptive practices that followed. The Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans, meanwhile, is doing the same for senior citizens, who are often targets of scams and fraud. The CFPB has also established a number of feedback programs that allow consumers to share their own stories — good or bad — about dealing with the financial industry.
Addressing discriminatory lending: African Americans, Latinos, and other minorities were twice as likely to be affected by the housing crisis as whites. Many lending institutions pushed minorities into subprime loans even though they qualified for regular prime loans. The CFPB’s Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity was created to end such practices by providing oversight and enforcement of fair lending laws and by working with private industry leaders, civil rights groups, and consumer advocates to ensure fair lending compliance.
Improving and streamlining financial regulation: The CFPB has already begun efforts to streamline and improve the regulations that affect the financial industry and will use feedback from both industry and consumer advocates to do so. The agency will update, modify, or eliminate unnecessary or outdated regulations, while attempting to make complying with others easier. Though Republicans have targeted the agency as anti-industry, the CFPB is committed to maintaining outreach to industry leaders. “A well-grounded understanding of the nation’s largest financial companies is essential to fulfilling our mission to improve consumer financial markets,” Cordray will say today.