President Obama is nominating Richard Cordray to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray, currently the lead enforcement officer at the CFPB, is a former attorney general for the State of Ohio and he has a reputation as a fierce enforcer of the law against lenders. As A.G., he filed lawsuits against GMAC Mortgage, Merrill Lynch, and loan servicers.
President Obama chose not to nominate Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, who has been establishing the agency as Special Assistant to the President and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Observers speculate that Warren would not have been able to obtain senate confirmation for the director’s post. There is speculation that Warren may run for a U.S. Senate seat representing Massachusetts in 2012.
“Warren was a lightning rod, and if she was a recess appointment it would have been a declaration of war,” said Ernie Patrikis, a former general counsel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He is currently a partner with the law firm, White & Case. “She would have had a miserable time before Congress, trying to get through the nomination process.”
Cordray may also find it difficult to obtain senate confirmation. Forty-four Republican senators are calling for changes in the structure of the new bureau before they will confirm any director. President Obama acknowledged the potential for a tough confirmation with these comments:
“The fact is the financial crisis and the recession were not the result of normal economic cycles or just a run of bad luck. They were abuses and there was a lack of smart regulations. So we’re not just going to shrug our shoulders and hope it doesn’t happen again… That’s why this bureau matters. I will fight any efforts to repeal or undermine the important changes that we passed. And we are going to stand up this bureau and make sure it is doing the right thing for middle-class families all across the country.”
Warren supports the nomination, calling Cordray a “stellar” selection.
In addition to Warren, others cheered President Obama’s move. “We strongly support the nomination of Richard Cordray,” commented AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Cordray has an outstanding record of protecting the public interest as the Attorney General of Ohio and as director of enforcement for the bureau. We are nonetheless disappointed that President Obama chose not to appoint Elizabeth Warren, who was opposed by Republicans and the financial interests that ruined our economy in an attempt to keep the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from getting off the ground.”
Cordray has a degree from the University of Chicago Law School, and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justices Byron R. White and Anthony M. Kennedy. In 1987, Cordray was a five-time champion on the television game show Jeopardy.