With a July 21 start date nearing and no director yet in place at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, many are wondering what powers the agency will have and what work it will do.
Without a director, the bureau would face certain restrictions on the cases it could pursue, and investigations would have to be referred to the CFPB by other federal regulators, according to Politico.com. The article cited a January report by the Treasury’s inspector general that said the CFPB cannot prohibit “unfair, abusive or deceptive” practices until a director is in place.
Should a director not be named, some expect the CFPB’s enforcement head to take on greater responsibility. Treasury hired Richard Cordray, former Ohio attorney general, for the position last December.
“The ability of the CFPB to investigate financial firms and then bring enforcement actions for violating existing laws is the most potent weapon the agency has absent a director. It is also one that will garner politically attractive headlines,” wrote Jaret Seiberg, an analyst for MF Global, in a report quoted on Politico.com.
However, according to CNN, and as detailed by the Bureau of National Affairs’ Banking Report, if no director is appointed and confirmed, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner would step up to run the consumer bureau, and he could designate management responsibilities to Elizabeth Warren.
Bloomberg reported that Steven Antonakes, bank supervision director at the CFPB, said oversight of banks with more than $10 billion in assets will start as planned on July 21. His unit will supervise 111 banks, thrifts and credit unions controlling about $10 trillion, or 80 percent of U.S. banking assets.
“Our own belief is that we’re not sure there’s much the bureau can do without there being an officially appointed head,” said Wayne Abernathy, an executive vice president at the American Bankers Association in a NASDAQ.com article.
He said there are “definitely legal issues if there is no director” come July 21 but “there’s disagreement as to just how nasty the legal problems are.”