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Consumer Confidential: Can California force companies to better protect customers? Former CFPB head has hope

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

"You're going to have to be constantly fighting to protect consumers," he said when I asked what tips he had for Alvarez. "It's a constant struggle."

After exiting the CFPB in 2017, Cordray launched an unsuccessful bid to be governor of Ohio. He has since completed a book, titled "Watchdog," scheduled for publication next month.

I asked what it was like going from a president like Obama, who gave his full backing to the CFPB's mission of consumer protection, to a president like Trump, who made no secret of his desire to weaken the agency.

Cordray said he had no meaningful one-on-one interactions with Trump during his final year running the CFPB. But he said a senior White House official made clear to him that the administration was fishing around for a reason to give Cordray the heave-ho.

After Cordray submitted his resignation, Trump installed his then budget chief (now acting chief of staff) Mick Mulvaney to run the CFPB. This raised more than a few eyebrows seeing as Mulvaney had previously dismissed the agency as a "sick, sad joke."

Cordray said he had "no real relationship" with Mulvaney, but described his successor as "a bomb thrower," and as "a wretched, awful choice" to serve as the nation's chief financial watchdog.

 

Mulvaney was followed in the gig by the current CFPB director, Kathleen Kraninger, who has continued to throttle back the bureau's enforcement work. In Cordray's view, however, she isn't as willfully destructive as Mulvaney.

"That's a very low bar," he acknowledged, describing Kraninger, a former White House official, as "a career administrator" who probably doesn't want to burn too many bridges while delivering on Trump's desire for a consumer advocate that's more bark than bite.

Kraninger last week appointed four agency critics to a CFPB task force on overhauling consumer financial laws.

George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki, who will chair the task force, has referred to the CFPB in the past as "the most powerful and unaccountable bureaucracy that I've ever been aware of."

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