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Consumer Bureau chief confirmed in close vote in Senate

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The Senate confirmed on Thursday that Rohit Chopra will head the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection in a 50-48 party vote that overcame objections from Republicans who said he would use the agency’s sweeping powers to launch an anti-counterfeiting vote. pursue a business agenda.

Mr. Chopra, 39, was most recently a commissioner to the Federal Trade Commission, which he often criticized for what he saw as an unwillingness to deal with violators. Facebook and Google were particular targets of his anger; citing “the endless scandals involving major tech companies,” he called for much bigger financial sanctions and tougher restrictions.

As President Biden’s pick for director, Mr. Chopra returns to an agency he helped build. Congress established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ten years ago with a simple mission: to regulate financial companies and protect consumers. The brainchild of Senator Elizabeth Warren, who lists it in her Twitter bio as one of her children along with her two human descendants, it set out to tackle the types of abuse that led to the 2008 mortgage crisis and subsequent economic crash. The agency quickly became one of Washington’s most feared and aggressive regulators.

“The CFPB is a young agency, and you see it as a leadership whipping,” said Ashley Taylor, a partner at Troutman Pepper who specializes in consumer finance regulation and enforcement. “The person at the top makes a huge difference.”

Mr. Chopra worked on the agency’s development team and then became an assistant principal, serving as the inaugural student loan ombudsman until 2015. over $1 trillion.

“He’s really part of that original Elizabeth Warren crew that was there at the beginning and got the agency up and running and had a great vision for what it was supposed to do,” said Rachel Rodman, a former law enforcement attorney with the agency who is now a partner. at the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. “I see this as a return to those times and those priorities after the Trump administration’s hiatus.”

Republicans have often demonized the consumer agency for its ability to reshape industries by rewriting their rules and punishing those who push the boundaries. Pennsylvania Senator Patrick J. Toomey, the most senior Republican on the Banking Committee, said he feared Mr Chopra would return the agency to “the lawless, overly, highly politicized agency that it was during the Obama administration.”

To take Mr Chopra’s nomination to the final vote, Vice President Kamala Harris broke a tie on a procedural vote. She had also broken deadlocks to confirm Jennifer Abruzzo, who became the general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board in July, and Kiran Ahuja, who became the director of the Office of Personnel Management in June.

Mr Chopra’s immediate focus will likely be on pandemic emergency response. Fearing a wave of evictions as a federal moratorium on evictions has passed, the agency recently approved new rules that will make it harder for lenders to seize homes until next year.

Comprehensive enforcement of fair loan laws is another area where observers expect significant action. At his nomination hearing in March, Mr. Chopra said he was concerned about the privacy and security of data collected by technology companies and financial services firms, and the risk of bias in the algorithmic systems that increasingly drive lending decisions.

Mr. Chopra’s office is also likely to take on a leading watchdog role over the burgeoning sector of non-bank financial technology companies providing mortgages, student loans and other credit products.

“Agency wants to be relevant, and with a director who isn’t afraid to extend the agency’s authority, the CFPB could really shape that space,” Ms Rodman said.

The consumer agency has swung like a pendulum between extremes in recent years. Under its original director, Richard Cordray, the agency has overhauled mortgage lending rules, suing hundreds of businesses and taking nearly $12 billion from businesses in the form of debt forgivens and consumer repayments. When Mr. Cordray left in the fall of 2017, President Donald J. Trump installed Mick Mulvaney, who as acting director curtailed the agency’s enforcement arm and curtailed his work sharply.

He was replaced by Kathleen Kraninger, a less ardent leader who shared Mr Mulvaney’s aversion to tougher financial regulations. She criticized the agency for: “push the envelope” and invalidated a planned rule that would have restricted payday loans.

But a Supreme Court ruling last year gave the president the power to fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at will, and Mr. Biden used that power to oust Ms. Kraninger in January. Since then, the agency has been led by an Acting Director, Dave Uejio, who has served there for nine years and most recently as Chief Strategy Officer.

To replace Mr. Chopra on the Federal Trade Commission, Mr. Biden has nominated Alvaro Bedoya, an online privacy expert.

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