U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Chief Defends Agency Before Congress

© Reuters. Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, answers questions at the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington

By Pete Schroeder

(Reuters) – The director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau defended himself in Congress on Wednesday against a barrage of Republican criticism on everything from the agency’s handling of the Wells Fargo accounts scandal ( NYSE 🙂 to how you have personally managed your work.

Appearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Richard Cordray was shy when asked if he would end his term, which expires in July 2018. Republicans on the committee and elsewhere have lobbied for the president Trump fires him, and Cordray is widely rumored to be a possible 2018 Ohio gubernatorial candidate.

Cordray, who has run the agency since 2012 when he was appointed by former President Barack Obama, has refused to resign since President Donald Trump took office. He did not say whether he will serve the rest of his term, which expires in July 2018.

“I have no knowledge to provide,” he said in response to a related question.

Under the Dodd-Frank law that created the agency, the president could only remove Cordray “for a cause.” But longtime Republican critics say Cordray’s decisions as regulator provide ample evidence for firing him.

“Despite all the harm done to consumers, the president should fire Richard Cordray,” said House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling.

Hensarling noted that the CFPB has not finalized regulatory projects required by Congress, such as drafting rules directing financial institutions to collect data on loan applications from minority- and women-owned businesses.

FARGO WELLS

Republicans claimed the agency did not detect wrongdoing at Wells Fargo & Co, relying on outside investigators and news reports to point out widespread problems with improper account creation.

“The CFPB was asleep at the wheel!” said Ann Wagner, Republican of Missouri. The earliest the committee could determine that the CFPB began examining Wells Fargo was in May 2015, after the bank notified the regulator that the Los Angeles city attorney was already handling a civil case, it said.

However, the CFPB was front and center in September 2016 when the high-profile multi-agency deal of $ 185 million was announced.

Cordray said Wagner was “merging” issues and said the oversight work “got exponential over time.”

The CFPB imposed a $ 100 million fine against the bank in an enforcement action before the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the City and County of Los Angeles. The investigation began after a 2013 Los Angeles Times investigative story.

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