Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray sat before the Senate one last time before he goes to trial with PHH next week over his leadership of the bureau.
And compared to past hearings, this one went pretty smoothly for the director, especially considering only two years ago he referred to questions from Congress as "offensive."
Apparently, since then, there are more reasons to praise the work of his regulatory agency.
So what was different today?
This time around Director Cordray came to battle with an army of supporters, keeping the atmosphere in the room extremely calm compared to previous years.
In past semi-annual hearings, Cordray defended the bureau against attacks on its annual budget, massive data collection, management and lack of oversight, items that barely came up in Thursday’s hearing.
One big reason behind this year’s calm hearing could be the fact that since the CFPB became a watchdog for consumers five years ago, it has obtained $11.2 billion in relief for 25 million people, a number that has skyrocketed from the $3.8 billion reported two years ago.
Before the hearing, the panel received petitions from hundreds of thousands of Americans supporting the bureau’s work.
Here are two examples:
- National Community Reinvestment Coalition: “NCRC applauds the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s final rule expanding the data collected around the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act… We are particularly pleased that the CFPB has followed the recommendation of NCRC and other advocacy groups to disaggregate the data on race and ethnicity. The CFPB has also shown careful consideration of potential privacy issues in this process, which should assuage any concerns surrounding the collection of the data.”
- National Fair Housing Alliance: “Prior to the establishment of the CFPB there was an obvious void in federal oversight of financial institutions operating to bring a panoply of financial products and services to consumers. This is evidenced by the sheer number of fair lending issues the Bureau is now able to address using its authority under Dodd-Frank. The millions of consumers who have received relief from discriminatory practices are a testament to the Bureau’s necessity. NFHA fully supports the fair lending regulatory and enforcement work the CFPB has undertaken and urges the Committee to do everything within its power to ensure that the agency is fully equipped to continue its work to make our financial markets fair for America’s consumers.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, praised the bureau in his opening remarks saying, “The CFPB has exposed bad behavior by financial companies that previously had no federal regulator, such as credit reporting, student loan servicing, and auto finance. And we finally have strong mortgage rules and disclosures designed for the people who have to pay the mortgage.”
“But more is needed. The Bureau is working on rules to regulate prepaid cards, debt collection, arbitration, and payday loans,” said Brown.
Mortgages were put on the back burner during Thursday’s hearing as talk surrounding payday lending started to heat up.
But while the focus of the hearing did not center on mortgages, it doesn’t mean the industry is over it.
The Credit Union National Association wrote a letter to the Senate committee commenting on recent rule makings, which have, or could, cause problems for credit union members if not properly tailored to consider their impact on credit union products and services.
From the letter:
The CFPB's recent Home Mortgage Disclosure Act rulemaking nearly tripled the Dodd-Frank Act required data points and will create significant compliance costs for credit unions, while doing very little more to enhance the ability of the CFPB to monitor for discriminatory practices. There will also be detrimental impacts on consumers, such as a decreased availability of home equity lines of credit, due to the increased regulatory burden of the new requirements. CUNA is continuing to urge the CFPB to provide broader exemptions for credit unions from these reporting requirements.
And despite Cordray saying he has and will continue to be open and understanding with the credit unions since they did not start the financial crisis, CUNA said that the bureau has been unwilling to provide additional guidance so far.
One of the most notable mortgage issues still on the table is the bureau’s legal battle with PHH, in what is one of the first cases of a business successfully challenging the bureau. But whether PHH will win its battle against the big guy is hard to say.
The mortgage lender fought back against the leadership at the CFPB, saying the bureau overstepped its authority when it imposed a penalty on PHH.
Both parties will meet before a panel of judges on April 12.