By Richard Hunt, Camden R. Fine, and Jim Nussle
December 1, 2017 at 5:00 am ET
Partisan bickering is nothing new in Washington and many are using the turmoil surrounding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s acting director to talk about politics when they should be focusing on the key issue at hand: the CFPB’s leadership structure.
Following former CFPB Director Richard Cordray’s abrupt exit, President Donald Trump is now charged with appointing a permanent successor, a decision with far-reaching implications for consumers and the economy. His pick will have immense influence in shaping the agency’s role, agenda and mission within our regulatory system.
However, before Congress considers Trump’s nominee, they should act to ensure the bureau is well positioned to protect the interests of consumers and the banking industry over the long haul. Given the bureau’s critical mission, a Senate-confirmed, bipartisan commission would provide the best path forward for consumers. A diverse group of experts directing and formulating agency policy – not a single director – would ensure consumers receive a balanced, deliberative and thoughtful approach to regulation.
Since its inception in 2010, the CFPB has sought to uphold its mission to “make consumer financial markets work for consumers, responsible providers and the economy as a whole.” This is an important duty, and we hope Trump will carefully consider the nomination. Consumers need an effective watchdog to enforce our consumer protection laws.
The CFPB’s leadership structure does not provide certainty or stability to banking regulation, consumers or our economy, as evidenced by the agency’s current void in permanent leadership. Each time the White House changes political hands, significant questions in leadership at the CFPB will remain – possibly every four years – as a new director will have complete autonomy to direct the agency according to his or her own ideology.
In contrast, a bipartisan commission would ensure the bureau takes an inclusive, thoughtful and transparent approach to a multitrillion dollar industry for generations to come. Certainty and stability in financial regulation is critical for banks to create long-term business plans, invest in innovative products and services and better serve their customers, small businesses and local economies.
You may be hard pressed to find a majority of Americans who agree on anything, but when it comes to a bipartisan commission at the CFPB, Americans overwhelmingly agree. A Morning Consult survey found that voters across eight key 2018 swing states prefer a bipartisan commission at the CFPB by a 3-1 margin. Additionally, only 14 percent believe the agency’s current structure should remain.
The idea of a CFPB commission did not start out as a partisan issue. Over the years, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have supported a bipartisan commission at the CFPB – even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) were once supportive of a commission.
With Cordray’s departure as CFPB director – and as we witness the repercussions of a poorly structured government agency – now is the time for Congress to act. Selecting a deliberative, diverse board of experts to lead the bureau would establish greater transparency, diversity of thought and better regulatory protections for consumers and the economy – exactly what the CFPB’s mission states the bureau is all about.
The American public wants to see members of Congress not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. They should use their vote to truly work on behalf of the American consumer and small businesses they champion and move forward with this common-sense, widely supported initiative that will help provide certainty and stability in consumer protection.
Richard Hunt is president and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Associations; Camden R. Fine is president and CEO of the Independent Community Bankers of America; and Jim Nussle is president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association.
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