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Six months on, CFPB director search continues

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is six months out from full implementation and there's still no nominee for director in the pipeline. No candidate has been discussed because senators are "slow-walking" toward a decision, members of Americans for Financial Reform said on a conference call Friday. The nonprofit is a coalition of more than 250 consumer, labor, civil rights, retiree and small business groups. Dodd-Frank became law six months ago on July 21. The sweeping financial reform act mandates creation of the CFPB and stipulates it must have a director within a year. If there is no captain for the ship, the CFPB will not gain some of the regulatory powers currently assigned to it. For example, it won't oversee nonbank financial institutions. The CFPB is set to become the first federal regulator for this type of institution. The CFPB also will become the de facto supervisor of the mortgage industry. Officials said state regulators and the bureau are dedicated to keeping examination procedures consistent while trying to minimize the regulatory burden on lenders. "We have a great deal of difficulty getting a nominee confirmed for other agencies, and this is a bureau many of the newly elected Republicans want to undermine," said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, a civil rights organization. "We assume there's going to be resistance to choose someone who is deeply committed to consumer protection," Travis Plunkett, legislative director of the Consumer Federation of America, said. Elizabeth Warren, special adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the CFPB, is heading up the establishment of the bureau. Many believed she would eventually be named director, but the consumer groups on the conference call could not confirm that would happen. "What we have done is said Elizabeth Warren is a spectacular nominee because she meets the criteria," Plunkett said. He had no other suggestions as to who President Obama might choose. "We'll see," said Plunkett. "We have every reason to believe he will choose someone who is qualified." A qualified nominee for director is someone who knows the financial industry and also has a deep knowledge of and connection to the consumer market, according to Plunkett. He said the candidate should be experienced and deeply committed to consumer protection. The deadline to appoint a director of the bureau is July 21, when the CFPB opens its doors and is supposed to be fully functional. President Obama is to elect a nominee, who must then be confirmed by the Senate. In order to make the deadline, Plunkett agreed with media personnel that "we would need to see a nominee soon." Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.

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