Biden Transition Brings Familiar Names Back into CFPB’s Orbit

Moving ahead with his transition in anticipation of his inauguration in January, President-elect of the United States Joe Biden has begun to look at what role he would like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to play in his upcoming administration.

To that end, Biden recently appointed Leandra English, former deputy director of the CFPB, to his transition’s agency review team according to the Washington Post. English was the hand-picked successor of inaugural CFPB director Richard Cordray, and after Cordray resigned English stepped in to serve as acting director, which would set up a conflict with the newly-inaugurated president at the time.

When President Donald Trump nominated former Congressman Mick Mulvaney to serve as acting director in late 2017, English sued, arguing that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 — which formally created the CFPB as an independent bureau — legally requires the deputy director to helm the department on an acting basis before a new, full-time director can be confirmed by the Senate. A federal judge ultimately sided with the president, however, and English left the CFPB several months later.

Biden’s tapping of English to serve on his transition’s agency review team spells that the incoming administration takes the Bureau and its authority seriously, according to the Post.

“[English’s] presence on the Biden review team means the group will benefit from someone with close knowledge of the CFPB and its inner workings, as she was part of the team that helped build the agency during the Obama administration,” the Post article reads. “Other former CFPB officials who are serving on the transition team are Ashwin Vasan, Brian Shearer, David Mayorga and Diane Thompson.”

Another member of the review team is Manny Alvarez, commissioner of the recently-consolidated California state Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI). Alvarez has been named as a possible candidate for CFPB director in the incoming administration, according to the Post.

All CFPB-adjacent members of the transition team are serving in a volunteer capacity, meaning that they are not being compensated by the Biden transition in order to fulfill their requested functions.

According to CFPB experts and insiders consulted by CNBC, other names on the apparent shortlist to lead the CFPB in the new administration include Former Director Cordray, commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and former Assistant CFPB Director Rohit Chopra, and U.S. Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.).

A recent decision by the United States Supreme Court, sought by Trump administration officials and endorsed by incumbent CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger, will give the incoming president the power to dismiss the CFPB director at-will and replace her with an appointment of his own choosing. An acting director could be appointed immediately, while a permanent director would require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

The CFPB maintains regulatory enforcement authority over the reverse mortgage industry at the national level. Since the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, reverse mortgage-related complaints to the Bureau have slowed. Enforcement actions have also recently risen to their highest levels in five years, though Democrats in Congress have repeatedly lamented what they perceive to be a softer approach to the agency’s regulatory posture since President Trump took office in 2017.

Read the article at the Washington Post.

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