Watchdog head means 'new sheriff in town'

Jan. 6, 2012 at 2:17 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Every member of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau must ensure all financial players treat consumers fairly, U.S. President Obama said Friday.

"[Millions] of working Americans use financial products like credit cards and student loans and mortgages -- and that's a good thing. These products have a tremendous potential to make people's lives better -- to buy products, to earn an education, to afford a home, to raise a family. And we all use them," Obama said when welcoming the new CFPB director, Richard Cordray. "But when they're sold in an irresponsible fashion they can also make life brutally hard on people."

The mission of the bureau is to "make sure that the rules of the road are enforced, and that a few bad actors in the financial sector can't break the law, can't cheat working families, can't threaten our entire economy all over again," Obama said.

The bureau was created in the financial reform bill passed by Congress in 2010; however, Obama appointed Cordray while Congress was in recess because Senate Republicans had held up Cordray's appointment for months. It began operation July 21, supervising large banks for compliance but has been unable to apply new powers -- such as supervising non-bank financial firms -- until the new director was confirmed.

Obama also gave a shout-out to Elizabeth Warren, who envisioned and set up the bureau.

Obama said horror stories of exorbitant interest rates, hidden fees and incomprehensible forms signed by individuals "shouldn't happen; not in America."

He pointed out one of the bureau's efforts -- the "Know Before You Owe" campaign -- has made a difference in making home loan applications more transparent, making it easier for students to compare financial aid packages and know what they'll owe after the graduate, and has made credit card agreements shorter and simpler.

"Your mission is extraordinarily important. It's vital to the strength of our economy. It's really important to the security of working families," Obama said.

He also used the occasion to urge Congress to extend the middle-class tax cut for all of 2012 to keep the economic recovery on track.

"It's the right thing to do. There should not be delay. There should not be a lot of drama," Obama sad. "We should get it done."

Cordray came to national attention for his aggressive investigations of mortgage foreclosure practices while he was Ohio's attorney general from 2009 to 2011.

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