Partisan journey finally ends with Chopra becoming CFPB director
Culminating a partisan slog that stretched from Inauguration Day through the close of the third quarter, the U.S. Senate confirmed Rohit Chopra as the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Thursday by a 50-48 final vote that needed Vice President Kamala Harris’ participation to get there.
Chopra shifts from the Federal Trade Commission to the CFPB, which has been overseen by an acting director since Kathy Kraninger resigned within an hour after President Joe Biden took the oath of office on Jan. 20.
Following the Senate approval, American Financial Services Association (AFSA) president and chief executive officer Bill Himpler gave this statement.
“Over the years, AFSA and its members have had the opportunity to work with Rohit Chopra both during his time as a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission and his prior stint as a senior leader at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” Himpler said. “In engaging with our industry, Mr. Chopra has always been gracious with his time and in considering the views of the consumer credit industry.
“We congratulate Mr. Chopra on his CFPB Senate confirmation and look forward to working constructively with him on pro-consumer policies that ensure access to credit,” Himpler continued.
In advance of Chopra’s confirmation hearings in February, Consumer Bankers Association President and CEO Richard Hunt outlined what the organization sees as four core principles necessary for the bureau to achieve the shared goals of protecting consumers equally across all financial institutions and putting an end to the political pendulum swing.
Those principles included:
— Ensuring Bureau actions preserve consumer access to credit
— Developing long-term, consistent consumer financial protection laws
— Implementing a clear, transparent rulemaking process with input from all participants
— Creating a level playing field across all financial services institutions
“Congratulations to Commissioner Chopra on his confirmation to lead the CFPB. CBA looks forward to working with Mr. Chopra to ensure the most thorough consumer protection initiatives are upheld and applied equally to all participants in the marketplace, including fintechs and nonbank lenders,” Hunt said in a statement released on Thursday.
“Under director Chopra’s leadership, the bureau should strive for financial regulations that last longer than a power shift in Washington. The agency’s brief history has already shown how constant changes in leadership can cause considerable uncertainty for consumers, small businesses and financial institutions when rules are repealed and rescinded between directors,” Hunt continued.
“CBA hopes director Chopra stands by his commitment of ‘making transparency an important goal,’ as stated during his confirmation hearing. Consumers are best served when regulators put politics aside and draft regulations with input from all stakeholders, leading to the implementation of well-founded rules which are debated, examined and their impact carefully considered before being enacted. Now more than ever, banks need — and consumers deserve — a reliable rulemaking process as the economy climbs out of the effects from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Just like the party-line vote, Senators offered near polar opposite opinions about Chopra leading the CFPB.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, cheered the confirmation.
“The CFPB will have a leader who is ready to stand up to the biggest banks and the most powerful corporations to protect families, service members, students, and the elderly,” Brown said. “Congratulations to Mr. Chopra. I applaud my colleagues for coming together to confirm this key nominee and look forward to working with director Chopra to protect all consumers.”
And ahead of Thursday’s final vote, Senate Banking Committee ranking member Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, reiterated his opposition.
“I have grave concerns that Commissioner Chopra would return the CFPB to the lawless, overreaching, highly politicized agency it was during the Obama administration,” Toomey said. “The CFPB was created by Democrats through the Dodd-Frank Act as arguably the most unaccountable agency in the history of the federal government. It’s an agency with a single-director, who — until recently — the president was unconstitutionally forbidden from removing. And it’s not accountable to Congress through the appropriations process — instead it simply draws virtually unlimited funding from the Fed.
“Commissioner Chopra favors unaccountable regulators with vast powers, like the super-agency he proposed to regulate politicians, think tanks and nonprofits. And at his nomination hearing, Commissioner Chopra defended the CFPB’s unaccountable structure,” the Keystone State lawmaker continued. “This raises concerns about how he would wield power at the CFPB. At the CFPB, he would not be accountable to Congress through the appropriations process. And since the CFPB is a single-director agency, there would be no other commissioners to restrain him.
“It is clear to me that Commissioner Chopra would return the CFPB to the rogue, unaccountable, anti-business agency it was during the Obama administration, and would continue to disregard legitimate congressional oversight,” Toomey went on to say.
Despite Toomey’s pleas on the Senate floor on Thursday, Chopra now is returning to the CFPB; this time as director. That’s delighting consumer advocates such as U.S. PIRG, the federation of state public interest research groups. Mike Litt is U.S. PIRG’s consumer campaign director.
“You could call Rohit Chopra the ‘consumer’s champion.’ We’re excited to call him ‘director,’” Litt said in a statement. “He helped set up the CFPB from Day 1, ran its student protection office, and unapologetically stood up for all of us as an FTC commissioner.
“We’ve been waiting for Chopra’s confirmation for more than 220 days since President Biden nominated him,” Litt continued. “In the meantime, CFPB acting director Dave Uejio has done a great job getting the bureau back on track after it stagnated under the Trump Administration. Now, with Chopra in the driver’s seat, the CFPB will be running on all cylinders.”