WASHINGTON — Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray has spent the past year and a half deflecting questions about the impact his controversial recess appointment is having on the agency, saying he and others were just focused on their work.
But in a sit-down interview with American Banker on Monday, Cordray acknowledged that his Senate confirmation, which cleared with a bipartisan majority, has boosted morale at the agency and provided personnel with additional confidence.
While bankers might fear that means a more aggressive CFPB, Cordray is quick to suggest otherwise, arguing he's balancing safety and soundness concerns with additional consumer protection. He also talked about what he sees as the agency's top accomplishments during its first two years of operation as well as the biggest challenges ahead.
Following is an edited transcript of the interview.
Since you've been at the CFPB, what would you say are the greatest accomplishments to date?
CORDRAY: There are a number of accomplishments, actually. First are the changes that we are effecting in the mortgage market, which is the largest consumer finance market and was the one that was most responsible for the credit freeze and the financial meltdown. For the agency to put new protections in place around that and yet, to be sensitive and responsive to access to credit issues, I think was quite a good piece of work by us. And it's obviously drawn a lot of positive commentary.
I think that our consumer complaint function has been influential with the industry. There were a lot of concerns the industry had about that to start with. But we've been working on it, it's been a very efficient and sensible process, and it is resolving a lot of issues. And we just actually received our 200,000th consumer complaint, which for us represents a continued growing trajectory of people now knowing that they can come to the CFPB to get help and to complain about a bigger array of products over time. That's meaningful.
The enforcement actions we've taken to make it clear that when we see deceptive marketing and other practices at these large institutions we won't hesitate to act, I think, is important. And so is our work on a growing range of issues, such as financial education, financial literacy, and financial empowerment -- both for consumers generally and with respect to our specialty populations such as service members, students, older Americans, and those of low-to-moderate income. It's really a great set of work that we're doing. There are many challenges, there's much to do, but I'm pleased at our progress thus far.
And I think that partly was what was reflected in what was a strongly bipartisan vote on confirmation a few weeks ago. And I told everybody here I think this reflects their work. It's good to know that I'm going to be here beyond the end of this year and have some time ahead for us to follow through on a lot of things we had under way.
I know you've said the battle in the Senate didn't impact how the agency was before or where it will go in the future but does your confirmation have some influence on your way of thinking?
I think two things. First, I do think that the key for us was before that occurred, everybody here was dedicated to keeping their eye on the ball and recognizing that we all came here because of the mission: to protect and empower consumers in a financial marketplace. It's a marketplace that is much more complex now than it was a generation ago and people need this agency to do its work well. But I do think going forward, it creates a further sense of certainty. It's been a morale boost here. And again, the fact the vote was so strongly bipartisan was a great reflection on everybody here. I think they recognize that as such, so it redoubles their enthusiasm to continue doing good work.