Congressmen get testy with CFPB chief Cordray

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its critics on the House Financial Services Committee traded jabs in a tense session last week as CFPB Director Richard Cordray presented the bureau’s semiannual report.

Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, used the occasion to advocate again that a bipartisan committee should lead the CFPB, not a single director.

Hensarling repeated the word “unaccountable” a lot. That’s because Congress not only doesn’t control the bureau’s budget, it also can’t change its leadership. Only the president can remove the director.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., suggested that the CFPB is doing an “end around” in how it handles auto finance -- trying to regulate dealers indirectly even though Congress carved franchised dealerships out of the CFPB’s jurisdiction.

“I don’t think so,” Cordray started to respond. “We’ve been very, very careful …”

But Perlmutter interrupted. “I’m telling my perspective,” he said.

Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Pa., referred to a study sponsored by the American Financial Services Association that was critical of the CFPB’s statistical methods in trying to measure discrimination in auto loans. Rothfus asked Cordray what he thought of the study, performed by Charles River Associates, and whether the CFPB would make any changes based on the study.

“We don’t agree with the conclusions with the report, and we’ve looked at it fairly carefully,” Cordray said.

One gets the feeling Cordray looks forward to these sessions like he looks forward to a toothache.

“Really, I do congratulate you on your stamina today, and the work that the agency is doing,” Perlmutter said. “There are some places where I disagree with you all.”

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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