Mortgage industry readies for pit bull CFPB

An article in Tuesday’s American Banker reminds us that the top spot at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau remains up for grabs. Furthermore, two options are mentioned for the president-appointed position: a “safe” candidate or an appointment made during the current congressional recess. If the latter, we will have our CFPB head within days. The current head, Elizabeth Warren, may be considered in the case of the former. Warren, for her part, has hinted publicly that it is a job she is willing to take. Warren is a brilliant speaker, and after her Q&A session at a recent Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference, one Bloomberg staffer said she reminded him of his sweet aunt. The comparison is perfect. I instantly reminisced about the BBC back in Britain. The broadcast behemoth there is often referred to as Auntie Beeb. The name comes with an undertone of hurt, however, every time one comes to pay the $60 quarterly television tax. Warren is on the record saying that as long as mortgage firms operate within the law, there will be no problems. The mortgage industry is not expecting this sugar-and-spice stance to last. “Our inclination is that come July 21, when the CFPB opens, they will look to quickly take down one large lender, and many smaller firms,” a mortgage industry source who consults with the CFPB tells me. The source talked about how the CFPB isn’t hiring staff from prior regulators, like the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. “They don’t want anyone who worked with those regulators who are today seen as not being forceful enough in the lead-up to the recession,” he said. One extrapolation is that the CFPB is looking for younger, more consumer-minded staffers who support the political shift against the housing industry status quo. But it may just be good old-fashioned paranoia to envision a regulatory entity more concerned with taking down an industry than helping to rebuild it. And it is certainly not a position endorsed by the CFPB. However, the head of the CFPB is a compelling issue as it exemplifies the hand wringing of a mortgage finance industry anxiously waiting to finally see who its boss will be. Many are predicting a Sheila Bair-esque appointment. Or at least someone with a long association with the “going out of business” moniker. But even if Warren is appointed, make no mistake; Auntie CFPB will own a pit bull. Write to Jacob Gaffney. Follow him on Twitter @JacobGaffney.

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