WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the founder of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, appeared alongside Director Richard Cordray on Wednesday during a rare joint appearance to discuss politics, financial products, and breaking up the big banks.
The Massachusetts Democrat took the lead on many key issues, declining to support a specific Democratic presidential candidate but advocating for more reforms to student loans, allowing the U.S. post office to offer banking products and expanding the powers of the CFPB.
Following are areas the two touched on during their discussion:
Regulating Auto Dealers
Warren argued that Congress should not have exempted auto dealers from the CFPB's purview during the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.
The CFPB has "proven what they can do but you may remember that when the bureau was built, [Congress] carved out auto dealers" from the agency's jurisdiction, Warren said during a discussion hosted by Politico. "This is an area where you really see some aggressive abuses."
Asked how she felt about the student loan reform plans proposed by democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, Warren simply said she was "just delighted to see that this is now a major issue in American politics."
"Part of this is we've got to deal with this giant student loan problem we've created. The second part is we have to bring down the cost of college," Warren said.
Warren also deferred a question on whether she thought Clinton's plan to address Wall Street reform was satisfactory.
"We have too-big-to-fail banks and the question is how best can we wrestle with those banks," Warren said. "Secretary Clinton has some really good ideas. She has a long and detailed financial program on that, but it's a problem this economy is still wrestling with."
On the flip side, when asked whether presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has asked Warren to join his campaign, Warren said "no" but that she thought it was "terrific that Bernie got into this race."
Cordray said that the agency was trying to be mindful of not eliminating payday-loan type products entirely from the market with their incoming proposal on such loans.
For some people it can be "a recipe for disaster" but "there are other people who get in and out of the product quickly and for many, that works," he said. "But we want to maintain the product for those people."
Warren reiterated that she supported a plan to allow the U.S. Postal Service to offer banking products like small-dollar lending.
"Another way we can give more people access to low-dollar money at lower interest rates is if we start using our post offices," she said. "This is an opportunity where we can both use some of the space we've already got . . . And give more (credit) access for the consumers who most need it."
The CFPB's Structure
Warren largely agreed with Cordray that the CFPB should not be changed to a commission rather than led by a single director.
"I actually think it makes the agency more accountable when I go in front of Congress and they're exercising oversight, which they do vigorously," Cordray said. "I can't look to my left or to my right and try to blame it on someone else. I am the accountable person to them. And I am the one who takes their input and goes back and tries to improve the agency accordingly."
Warren repeatedly noted concerns that the commission structure has not worked out for agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The CFPB "is functioning. It doesn't need to be restructured. If we want to talk about a place that's not functioning very well let's take a look at the SEC," Warren said. "The SEC has shown us that there's a real problem with that five-person commissioner and that they are caught in political battles, they're caught in posturing, they're caught in blaming . . . and they're not doing the work that the law requires them to do. They're behind on doing all of their rulemaking."
Cordray defended the agency's jurisdiction over the accreditation process of for-profit colleges.
"If an accrediting agency is facilitating for-profit colleges that's misleading consumers, treating them unfairly and deceptively, then that's something we should look at," Cordray said.
Warren added that she did not like a provision that was added to the budget agreement between the Obama administration and Congress that allows robo-calling by debt collectors without needing the consumer's consent if the debt is backed by the government, such as federal student loans.
"I think it's a bad provision," she said. "But overall we've got a bill here where for the first time, it looks like we're going to take off the table having the Republicans shut down the government over not raising the debt ceiling and that is a really good, important thing."