Consumer Financial Protection Bureau leaders maintain a love-hate relationship with the press.
What this says about the press or the CFPB is hard to say, but coverage of the bureau never goes out of style. The remarkable thing is CFPB director Richard Cordray couldn't be more different than the bureau's architect Elizabeth Warren, but they still capture headlines.
While Warren received coverage this week for her U.S. Senate run in Massachusetts, CFPB director Richard Cordray spoke to a roomful of financial journalists at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers Conference.
So how is Cordray's message different from the one Warren delivered to the same group last year?
Cordray focused on journalists' role in explaining the financial crisis to the public and in keeping the CFPB accountable. When Warren spoke at the same conference, she stressed the need for 'political independence,' saying it's important for bank regulators to be separate from the pack since older regimes of regulators "began with good intentions but were captured by the very group they were employed to regulate."
Cordray is a bit more philosophical, focusing on the role journalists play in guarding the public.
In prepared statements, Cordray wrote: "Joseph Pulitzer once said that 'our Republic and its press will rise or fall together.' Maybe he would be viewed as self-interested in saying that, but every citizen of this country ought to feel the same way. Like Pulitzer, I deeply believe that reporters play an important role in ensuring our government operates fairly, efficiently, and honestly. This role includes a new task of keeping the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accountable to the highest standards."
Looking closely, the two messages strike a different tone. On one hand, the CFPB wants to be separate so they can independently protect the public. On the other hand, they feel a need to be accountable. After all, the agency and its leaders, like other regulators, are appointed by the political class.
But, perhaps, there's a more poignant question to ask? With all the press coverage, why do so few people outside the financial media know what the CFPB is? For an agency created for the average jane's and joe's of the world, few people on the street seem to know about the agency or even care. And that's not from lack of media coverage.
This is because there's another breakdown in society—one where the public consumes a lot of information, but none of it financial or particularly high-brow. Whether people are for or against the CFPB, this breakdown is one the nation may never recover from.