Cordray Vows to Stay at CFPB, Cites Independence

By Gregory Roberts

Richard Cordray, the beleaguered director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said Jan. 24 that he’ll fight to keep his job insulated from shifting political fortunes despite calls by Republicans for his ouster by President Donald Trump.

Asked about his employment status at a Wall Street Journal event in Washington, Cordray said he was nominated to his five-year term by Democratic President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate, in 2013. His term straddles two presidential terms by design, to ensure independence for his office, he said.

“The independence is an important principle that’s worth fighting for and preserving,” Cordray said. Otherwise, he said, “You end up mired in partisan politics.”

Cordray is the first director of the CFPB, which was established under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that tightened rules on financial services in response to the 2007-08 crisis, and he is a frequent target of Republican attacks on the agency as an example of job-killing regulatory overreach. Republican Sens. Mike Lee, of Utah, and Ben Sasse, of Nebraska, wrote Trump Jan. 9 asking for Cordray’s dismissal.

Trump has met recently with former Rep. Randy Neugebauer, from Texas, a persistent critic of the CFPB reportedly under consideration as Cordray’s replacement. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Jan. 23 that “no decision has been made at this time” about whether Trump will seek to remove Cordray.

Dodd-Frank says the CFPB director can be removed only for cause. A federal appeals court ruled in October that the CFPB is “unconstitutionally structured” because it is overseen by a single director who can be removed only for cause. The court sought to fix that by striking the for-cause clause, meaning Cordray’s continued service would be at the pleasure of the president, but that order has been stayed pending a decision on a rehearing of the case.

Leading Democratic senators said Jan. 18 that an attempt by Trump to fire him would be hard-pressed to withstand a legal challenge.

Cordray said that Obama’s succession by Trump should not affect his role at the CFPB.

“In the grand scheme of things, it really shouldn’t change the job at all,” he said. “We’re expected to work with different administrations, of different points of view.”

On Jan. 20, hours after Trump’s inauguration, his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, issued a memorandum calling for a halt or delay in the issuing of new or pending regulations. Obama issued a similar directive when he took office in 2009.

It’s unclear how much effect the memorandum would have on independent agencies such as the CFPB, and Cordray did not give his opinion. He said his staff is still “digesting” the instructions.

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