This Watchdog Looks Feisty Again
Bloomberg Businessweek|March 29 - April 05, 2021
Under new management, the CFPB is knocking on banks’ doors and asking questions
Pat Regnier

America’s personal-money watchdog is beginning to stir once again.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created in the wake of the 2008 mortgage crisis. Its mandate: to make sure financial products such as loans aren’t designed to trick people into onerous debt or high fees. The CFPB was hobbled by its own leaders during the Trump years, to the glee of many in the financial industry, who argued that the agency had been given too much unaccountable power.

President Biden’s nominee to lead the CFPB, Rohit Chopra, is expected to win Senate confirmation within weeks. But the regulator is already sending a message that it’s getting tougher. On-site examinations are up, banking executives tell consultants. Student lending, subprime auto loans, debt collection, mortgage services, and payday loans are all expected to come under renewed scrutiny, analysts say.

For a time during the Trump administration, the CFPB’s acting director was Mick Mulvaney, who’d previously described the agency as a “sick, sad” joke. Over the past four years the bureau has generated about $2.3 billion in consumer relief through enforcement actions, compared with more than $10 billion in the prior four years. Chopra is likely to be more in tune with the original activist mission of the CFPB. He was the bureau’s assistant director under Obama-era chief Richard Cordray and is an ally of Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat credited with conceiving of the CFPB and helping to set it up.

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