Cordray’s CNBC interview raises more questions than answers

Cordray interview CFPB Director Richard Cordray has not made a habit of participating in in-depth interviews very often. Recently however, Director Cordray finally shared some thoughts about his role as the head of the CFPB and the future of the agency during an interview with CNBC’s chief Washington correspondent John Harwood.

The conversation focused primarily on the recent change in political winds in Washington and Cordray’s perspective on the CFPB’s role in holding financial institutions accountable while protecting consumers.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

  • Harwood: For you personally, is [CFPB Director] a job worth fighting for?
  • Cordray: I think that the independence of a consumer watchdog is very much worth fighting for. It’s really important work.

***

  • Harwood: Do you not accept that you [and the CFPB] need to be accountable to someone in government who is elected by people?
  • Cordray: We are accountable. I have to be accountable to Congress; I have to testify in front of them four times a year. I’m accountable to the courts; they oversee what we do. And if we get something wrong, we fix it, just like everybody else does.
  • Harwood: Doesn’t accountability mean that somebody in government above you can fire you or change your budget?
  • Cordray: Well, what they can do is replace you from time to time. That’s the way the independent agencies work. Nobody’s talking about firing Janet Yellen at the Federal Reserve. Nobody’s talking about firing other independent agency heads. That’s the principle of our government.

***

  • Harwood: Would you like, by the way, to sit down with the president and explain to him your perspective on your agency?
  • Cordray: I always enjoy sitting down with anybody to talk about our work and try to explain why I think it’s so important … So, yeah, I would love to have that opportunity.

Despite Cordray’s willingness to share some of his thoughts on the controversy surrounding his job and the CFPB, the interview concluded with a number of important questions not asked and therefore unanswered. The CFPB’s legal battle with PHH where the agency’s constitutionality is being challenged is pending review before the DC Circuit. Everyday rumors swirl about suggesting that Trump may attempt to remove Cordray as CFPB Director. Republican lawmakers are working to overhaul the CFPB and limit its powers. While Harwood’s questions generally touched all of these subjects, he neglected to directly address these matters.

Ballard Spahr attorney Alan Kaplinsky wrote that “the interview was more noteworthy for what it failed to cover than what it covered.” Kaplinsky provided a list of eight important questions that were not asked. Here are two of the questions he mentioned that would also be at the top of our list:

  • If President Trump tries to remove you for cause, will you fight the removal in court?
  • Have you had discussions with anyone in the White House or part of the transition team and, if so, what message have they delivered to you?

For the rest of the list, visit the CFPB Monitor blog.

Tags: CFPB, CFPB Director, Cordray, Trump

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