Some-Time CU Foe Seen As First Head Of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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WASHINGTON – Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, a longtime consumer advocate and some-time critic of credit unions and banks, is widely seen as the frontrunner to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the new bank reform bill will create inside the Federal Reserve.

Warren one of the originators of the idea for the consumer protection agency, has often fought credit unions and banks on consumer issues, particularly the long battle over bankruptcy reform, which she opposed. Warren, 61, is the current chair of the panel overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

The credit union lobby originally opposed the creation of the consumer agency but softened its opposition after Congress agreed to exempt all institutions under $10 billion (all but three credit unions) from being examined by the agency. Those credit unions under $10 billion instead will continue to be examined for compliance with consumer regulations by their current regulator, either NCUA or state credit union supervisors. But all credit unions will have to comply with any new regulations to be written by the new agency, which will have ultimate supervisory authority if the current credit union regulator fails to act to enforce a violation.

NAFCU President Fred Becker, who opposed credit unions being brought under the new consumer agency, said over the weekend he has met Warren and talked to her on several occasions. “She is one of an apparent short list of candidates and I am confident she will get careful consideration,” said Becker.

Among the other candidates to head the new consumer agency are Michael Barr, the well-known assistant Treasury Secretary who helped guide the bank bill through Congress and is considered a friend of credit unions, and Eugene Kimmelman, a former consumer advocate and currently chief counsel for competition policy and intergovernmental relations at the Justice Department.

 

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