Seifert: GOP Opposition to Cordray 'A Song and Dance'

Richard Cordray, director designate of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

A leading consumer advocate from Ohio, the home state of the director-designate of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in an October 19 interview called on Republicans to quickly confirm the nomination.

Mark B. Seifert, the executive director of Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People, said Richard Cordray, who was nominated by President Barack H. Obama Jr., July 17 to be the bureau’s first director is a fair and brilliant attorney, who deserves consideration.

“My hope and sense is that what is going on with Republicans is that some of those morons are looking and see that foreclosures are kinda a problem,” Seifert said.

“I would hope that they would see the light and realize that we need someone to go in and hold these banks accountable,” he said.

“Just look at Rich’s qualifications and accomplishments—if he’s in there, he’s going to do his job,” Seifert continued. “Rich is not going to wake up one day and say: ‘Aw, I’ve got them now!’ Then, put all the banks out of business—that is not what Rich is about.”

The CFPB, created as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, is a regulatory force with sweeping powers to monitor and control financial transactions. The director would serve a five-year term that overlaps presidential terms. This means, an incoming president could not appoint his own director, nor does the director serve at the pleasure of the president.

The five-year term, not tied to the president’s, is essential to the mission and intent of the agency, Seifert said. “What we want is true independence. We have seen what happens when the regulators are not independent—when regulators were in the pockets of the banks.”

Although the bureau is being stood up by the Treasury Department, once the director is confirmed, the bureau will be spun off of Treasury as its own independent agency.

There is buzz that the nomination may move toward confirmation as left-leaning Republican senators seek an accommodation.

A Capitol Hill source who asked for their name to be withheld because they are not authorized to speak to the media about the negotiations, said the White House is offering to modify the bureau’s structure in exchange for Republicans dropping their opposition.

“They are offering bipartisan board of directors and allowing other financial regulators to veto CFPB decisions if they affect safety and soundness,” the source said.

“The White House does not believe that Shelby will take the deal, but they think they can pick off Brown, Collins, Snowe and Corker.  Nelson on the Dem side is also in play,” the source said.

Shelby’s office confirmed that no proposal has been recieved by the White House for his to consider.

The source said Sen. Susan M. Collins (R.-Maine) and Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R.-Maine) are still solid, but the concern is Sen. Lisa A. Murkowski (R.-Alaska), who did not join Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R.-Ala.) and 43 other GOP senators in signing his May 5 letter demanding changes in the bureau.

Ohio’s Republican Sen. Robert J. Portman continues to sit on the fence, the source said.

[After the original posting of this article, Portman aides contacted HUMAN EVENTS to clarify that they and Portman were open to working with the White House and Cordray to address the concerns detailed in the May 5 letter and that Portman’s committment to the letter will not change unless substantive, legislative changes were made to the CFPB including increased accountability. Portman has not seen a proposal from the White House to do that yet.]

Seifert said he had meetings in late July and early August with Portman staffers from both his Cleveland and Toledo offices about Cordray’s nomination.

“We came there to express the hope that Senator Portman would back out of the asinine letter that he and the Republicans signed in the spring saying: ‘Give us this of we’re not going to confirm anybody.”

“It sounds the way a five-year-old behaves on the schoolyard: ‘Do it my way or I’m taking my ball and going home,’” he said.

“The song and dance that they’ve all been fed to say is: ‘Well, it’s not Rich, we like Rich, he’s a good guy, but we are not convinced about all this power going to one person,” he said.

Seifert said Portman’s staff did not stray from their script: “They said Senator Portman is weighing it all very carefully—blah, blah, blah.”

The consumer advocate said he not aware of any specific compromises being negotiated, but he is willing to give Republicans a symbolic victory.

“If that means we have to give the Republicans something, so they can say they got one over Obama, whatever.”

“The important thing is to get him in there, so he can move on rule-making and bureaucratic things what can’t happen until they have something in that position,” he said.

Seifert said his organization started seeing problems related to unfair practices by banks and credit card companies in 1999, not 2008 as most people have come to believe.

“Congress sat silent for 10 years, now all of a sudden they want oversight? Go to hell, no!” he said.

“The CFPB will have a lot of power,” he said. “It does.”

“Frankly, that scares Congress,” he said.

“What scares me is watching Mrs. Martin, a 78-year-old in her home for 40-something years on East 77th Street, trying desperately to save her home only to have J.P. Morgan Chase lose her paperwork constantly,” he said. Martin’s home is scheduled for a sheriff’s auction in the second week in December.

Many of the actual reforms and consumer protections in Dodd-Frank for people like Mrs. Martin are held up as long as the CFPB does not have a director, Seifert said.

“President Obama has put a lot of eggs in one basket with the CFPB and the Dodd-Frank in trying to clean things up,” he said.

“People like Senator Shelby have done everything they can do to dismantle it.”