Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray took an extraordinary step on Monday, pleading directly with President Donald Trump in a last-ditch effort to save the CFPB’s controversial arbitration rule.
Last week, the Senate voted 51-50 – with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tiebreaking vote – to kill the CFPB’s arbitration rule, which would ban companies from using mandatory arbitration clauses, thereby allowing consumers to participate in class-action lawsuits.
The House previously voted to revoke the rule at the end of July, leaving Trump’s signature as the only thing standing in the way of the rule officially being revoked using the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn certain regulatory rules issued by federal agencies by within 60 days of the rules being announced.
“Tonight’s vote is a giant setback for every consumer in this country,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said after the Senate vote. “Wall Street won and ordinary people lost. This vote means the courtroom doors will remain closed for groups of people seeking justice and relief when they are wronged by a company.”
Now, Cordray is taking his efforts to save the arbitration all the way to the top, writing a letter directly to Trump to ask him to veto the Senate vote.
The letter is remarkable in both its message and its method. It’s highly unusual to see an acting agency director personally appealing directly to the president, but that’s what Cordray is doing here.
“As I am sure you know, last week the Senate voted to disapprove a rule that the consumer bureau had issued to enable consumers to act together by going to court when they feel they have been wronged,” Cordray writes in the letter to Trump.
“The resolution is now before you to decide whether it will stand or fall. This letter is not about charts or graphs or studies. Instead, it is simply a personal appeal to you, asking you to uphold this rule,” Cordray continues.
Cordray acknowledges in the letter that his effort may be a fool’s errand, but it appears he is attempting to bypass Trump’s advisors and appeal directly to the president.
“Many have told me I am wasting my time writing this letter – that your mind is made up and that your advisors have already made their intentions clear,” Cordray writes. “But this rule is all about protecting people who simply want to be able to take action together to right the wrongs done to them. When people are wronged or cheated, they deserve the chance to pursue their legal rights.”
Then Cordray makes what might seem like a startling admission, especially considering Trump and Cordray’s respective places in the government and the prevailing thought that Trump wants to fire Cordray – Trump and Cordray have never met or spoken.
“You and I have never met or spoken, but I am aware that over the course of your long career in business you often found it necessary to go to court when you thought you were treated unfairly,” Cordray writes, adding that most Americans cannot afford to take companies like Wells Fargo or Equifax to court.
“I think you really don’t like to see American families, including veterans and service members, get cheated out of their hard-earned money and be left helpless to fight back,” Cordray writes.
“I know that some have made elaborate arguments to pretend like that is not what is happening,” Cordray continues. “But you are a smart man, and I think we both know what is really happening here.”
After his attempt at flattery, Cordray closes his letter by stating that Trump, alone, has the power to save the arbitration rule.
“You alone now have the power to safeguard people’s ability to take action together and go to court when they are wronged. They deserve to have that right protected,” Cordray concludes. “I urge you to heed the views of the American Legion, the Military Coalition, and millions of Americans by vetoing this congressional resolution disapproving the arbitration rule. Thank you for your consideration.”