Cordray gets to work

Now that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a director, it can get to work on some long-overdue priorities. For America’s middle class, that’s terrific news.

The new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday outlined a vigorous oversight and enforcement agenda, saying that companies that take unfair advantage of consumers of financial products will face “real consequences.”

The director, Richard Cordray, who was appointed to the post Wednesday by President Obama, encouraged consumers to contact the agency with their stories and complaints about banks, payday lenders and other financial institutions that they feel have sold deceptive products or engaged in abusive behavior.

“The consumer bureau will make clear that there are real consequences to breaking the law,” Mr. Cordray, who had been in charge of enforcement at the agency, said in remarks prepared for at a speech at the Brookings Institution.

“We have given informants and whistle-blowers direct access to us,” he said. “We took over a number of investigations from other agencies in July, and we are pursuing some investigations jointly with them. We have also started our own investigations. Some may be resolved through cooperative efforts to correct problems. Others may require enforcement actions to stop illegal behavior.”

It’s a reminder that, for all the Republican talk about pro-forma sessions and the technical definitions of “recess,” the CFPB is empowered to do some fantastic work on behalf of Americans who need the support.

And this work couldn’t get underway so long as the Republicans’ 19th-century nullification strategy continued.

“Many subprime loans during the housing bubble were made by nonbank mortgage brokers,” he added. “Since most of these businesses are not used to any federal oversight, our new supervision program may be a challenge for them. But we must establish clear standards of conduct so that all financial providers play by the rules.”

Mr. Cordray asked consumers to contact the agency directly through its Web site, consumerfinance.gov. “Our team is taking complaints about credit cards and mortgages, with other products to be added as we move forward,” he said. “Our work will support the honest businesses in financial markets against those who deceive consumers or otherwise break the law.”

I’ll leave it to others to explain why Republicans are siding with predatory lenders and industry excesses, rather than Cordray’s non-partisan work.

But even putting the politics aside, can we just pause for a moment to note that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a really good idea? Over the last several months, even I got so caught up in the Republican obstructionist tactics, and the desperation with which the GOP tried to weaken the agency, it was easy to lose sight of just how significant it is to have a bureau like this in place.

President Obama’s political team put together this video a while back for those who might like a refresher on what this initiative is all about.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration in the slightest to consider this one of the best and most progressive breakthroughs of the Obama presidency.