When the Richard Cordray and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau joined the already crowded financial regulatory family in 2011, he was something of a unknown quantity. Would he be strict? Would he listen patiently to your concerns or raise a rolled-up newspaper every time he sensed a bit of lip? Would he let banks get away with a few harmless fees here and there or crack the whip at the slightest misstep?
By now we all know the answer. But ever since Donald Trump entered the White House, the CFPB's power dynamic has started to fray. Cordray no longer wields the unbending paternal authority he once enjoyed. And companies have begun to notice:
Of 21 enforcement actions announced by the watchdog agency thus far in 2017, one-third have been challenged, the CFPB said. Those seven challenges already exceeds the number last year, when the bureau brought 36 enforcement cases and faced six challenges, according to data compiled by Christopher Peterson, a University of Utah law professor.
This is all in anticipation of Cordray getting shit-canned, which the Trump administration would love to do, should the courts clear a way to do so in some very dry ongoing litigation. Failing that, the White House would have to go to all the effort of proving “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance” on the part of the five-time Jeopardy champ to cut short his term, which expires next year.
But waiting around for that is frankly boring, so firms in the CFPB's crosshairs are taking a bye-Felicia approach:
“We are seeing more resistance to CFPB actions,” said Joseph Rubin, a senior counsel at Arnall Golden Gregory who advises clients on regulatory matters. “We anticipate that as it gets closer to the end of Cordray’s term, the CFPB may find it more difficult to obtain quick consent orders from financial institutions.”