INDIANAPOLIS — Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told a group of business journalists Friday that he is looking forward to being held accountable by them. Moments later, he was defending the agency's power.
"Reporters play an important role in making sure our government operates fairly, efficiently and honestly," Cordray said at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers 49th annual conference in Indianapolis. "This role involves a new task now: keeping the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accountable to the highest standard."
But Cordray was quickly put to the test, asked by a reporter if the agency had enough "oomph" to be effective, particularly alongside other regulators.
"The [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] will continue to regulate the financial institutions under its jurisdiction, which is only a portion of the banking community, from a safety and soundness perspective," Cordray responded. "We now have authority over those same banks in terms of how they treat customers and what they do in the area of consumer protection. The same is true of the Fed, the same is true of the FDIC. Those three agencies split up the national banking community. None of them can even comprehensively regulate the national banking community."
Cordray added: "And then when you realize the national mortgage community and the significant competition from non-bank lenders and non-bank servicers, none of which they can touch… it shows how different and more comprehensive the authority we now have."
He said the agency has already come a long way in a brief period of time.
"You opine that we don't have the muscle to do this — we are an agency that is only about six months old and we've only had a director for two months, so I believe we are just getting underway," he said. "We have strong and ample authority to address these problems."
Cordray was also asked if his agency could be disbanded should President Obama not be re-elected. He said he was confident that the proof of its good work would overshadow politics.
"My feeling is that as we do our jobs, we will prove ourselves not only to the public at large, but also with the same people on Capitol Hill, who in the end receive the same comments and input and complaints," Cordray said. "If we are showing progress that is improves lives, I think we can win our critics over."