Biden’s Chopra Pick Signals New Bite for CFPB

NEW CASTLE, DELAWARE - JANUARY 19: One day before being inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Major Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center January 19, 2021 in New Castle, Delaware. The reserve center is named for Beau Biden, Joe Biden’s oldest child and who served as attorney general of Delaware and a major in the state’s National Guard before dying of brain cancer at the age of 46 in 2015. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Consumer advocates and progressives expressed high hopes that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will return to its fierce watchdog days under the leadership of Rohit Chopra, a former CFPB official currently serving with the Federal Trade Commission. 

Chopra, the FTC commissioner named by Democratic President-elect Joe Biden on Monday to head the CFPB, served as the CFPB’s student loan ombudsman shortly after the agency was established, and was later its assistant director, leading its efforts on student loans. 

“Rohit Chopra is an incredibly strong pick to lead the CFPB,” Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel of the Consumer Federation, an advocacy group, wrote in an email. Chopra’s experience will “help it re-align its work with the mission of the agency which is to make the financial marketplace more fair for consumers.”

Biden’s selection, which must be approved by the Senate, is a signal to his detractors as well as his allies that he intends to restore the aggressive stance of the CFPB, which was founded in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to protect consumers from abusive lending. Consumer advocates have criticized the leadership of Kathy Kraninger, an appointee of Republican President Donald Trump, saying she made rules favoring business and debt collectors over consumers, even amid the pandemic’s economic hardships.

(Kraninger is just over two years into her five-year term, but a Supreme Court ruling this summer gave the president authority to fire CFPB directors at will.) 

Conservatives, meanwhile, are lamenting the pick, predicting a crackdown on business. 

“President-elect Biden’s decision to nominate Rohit Chopra will make Elizabeth Warren very happy,” said Republican congressman Patrick McHenry, of North Carolina. “This is proof that the Biden team is pandering to members of the far-left who want to weaponize the CFPB to go after financial services companies they simply don’t like.”

Indeed, Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who pushed for the creation of the CFPB under Democratic President Barack Obama, called the choice “terrific.”

“He's been a fearless champion for consumers at the FTC and will be a fearless champion leading the consumer agency,” Warren wrote on Twitter Monday, noting that she had worked closely with Chopra to set up the agency in its early days.

Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group, also praised Chopra’s nomination. “Consumers can rest just a little bit easier knowing that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will not just be on their side, but aggressively establishing rules to stop ripoffs and enforcing the rules against financial cheats and scamsters,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, and Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the group, in a statement.

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