Barely a day after Rohit Chopra took office as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the agency announced a leadership shakeup.
The agency said that the four senior roles will be filled by a Biden campaign alum, two former Obama-era CFPB officials and a long-time Bureau official with fair lending expertise.
Zixta Martinez will serve as the CFPB’s deputy director, and will oversee the operations division. Martinez helped set up the CFPB when it was founded in 2011, and has since been senior advisor for supervision, enforcement and fair lending, associate director for external affairs and assistant director for the office of community affairs. She previously held positions at Freddie Mac, the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. and the National Council of La Raza. The deputy director role was open.
Karen Andre, who will be associate director for consumer education and external affairs, was previously special assistant to the president for economic agency personnel. She also worked on President Biden’s 2020 campaign and, following his election, was the COVID-19 engagement team lead. Previously she was the White House liaison for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Returning CFPB officials will hold two of the positions announced today.
Erie Meyer, who will be the agency’s chief technologist, a new role, was a founding member of the CFPB’s office of technology and innovation. Chopra brought Meyer on as his chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission soon after he was sworn in. In announcing Meyer’s hire at the FTC, Chopra tweeted it’s “tough for government to hold industries accountable without understanding how they truly work.”
Jan Singelmann is also returning to the CFPB, this time as its chief of staff. From 2013 to 2019, Singelmann was the agency’s senior litigation counsel in its office of enforcement. Since then, he has been counsel for Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the chair of the Senate Banking Committee, where he focused on consumer finance and data privacy. Singelmann replaces Nelly Ramdass as chief of staff.
In the lead up to Chopra’s swearing in as CFPB director, some had raised concerns about the Biden administration clearing out career officials at the agency in order to make room for its own hires. Federal statute requires personnel decisions be made without regard to political affiliation. Still, some observers — including former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) — expected the Biden administration to undo many of the hiring decisions made by the previous administration.
“It’s an unusual agency in that Trump was entirely hostile to its mission and its purpose,” Frank told Government Executive. He told the publication, which focuses on federal agencies, it wouldn’t be surprising if the new administration felt it “needed to make changes.”
The reported sidelining of career officials drew the attention of Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, the senior Republican member on the Senate Banking Committee, who accused the Biden administration of taking “unusual and possibly unlawful actions” to sideline career civil servants and fill positions with “hand-picked loyalists” ahead of Chopra’s arrival at the CFPB.