Shurtleff backs nomination of federal consumer finance czar

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 18 2011 1:31 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite heavy opposition from a Republican-led group in the Senate, Utah's attorney general is throwing his support behind the President Barack Obama's nominee to lead the nation's financial watchdog agency.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, a Republican, and the attorneys general from 36 states and territories Tuesday sent a letter to the U.S. Senate expressing their support of the nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB, created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, regulates financial products and services.

"Cordray's experience and balanced approach to the financial services industry … make him uniquely qualified to serve as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau," Shurtleff said.

"We're dealing with crisis situations, (and) we need the power and cooperation of the federal government," Shurtleff said. "We feel it's important to get him going and working right now with us."

Cordray was nominated in July and the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs voted 12-10 on Oct. to send the nomination to the full Senate. For the past several months he has served as the CFPB's director of enforcement. Prior to taking the job, he served two years as Ohio attorney general.

In a letter to party leaders of the Senate and House, the attorneys general said Cordray has earned a reputation as a strong advocate for the interests of consumers.

The CFPB is intended to make basic financial practices, such as taking out a mortgage or a loan, clearer and more transparent as well charged with ferreting out unfair lending practices, the letter stated. Supporters said Cordray knows that such actions will not only protect consumers, but they would also assist community bankers and other financial companies that are committed to honest dealing and quality customer service. 

"Mr. Cordray dealt with all the leading players, including Wall Street firms, banks, credit rating agencies and subprime mortgage lenders," the letter said. "In these actions, he not only defended consumers, but also worked to find fair and reasonable solutions for the financial industry."

Following Cordray's committee approval earlier this month, a group of 44 GOP senators vowed to block the nomination unless significant changes are made to the structure of the agency. At issue is the amount of power a single director could wield over the bureau, critics argued.

The opposition group is seeking to replace the director with a five-member commission in addition to requiring stricter oversight by other agencies over the bureau. Also, the group is also pushing to fund the CFPB through congressional appropriations instead of through the Federal Reserve.

A confirmation vote is still under consideration, even though Republicans have enough support to block it using a filibuster.

Some advocates have called on the president to use a recess appointment that would allow Cordray to serve until December of next year rather than a full five-year term. The White House has offered few details on such a possibility, leaving the nomination in limbo and opponents standing firm on their principles. 

In a statement Thursday, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said, "We are simply asking that this enormously powerful new agency have checks and balances in place that protect the country from an overly zealous director."

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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