Americans disagree on how much government is too much. That is not surprising; we live in a diverse country. But, a common thread – that links us all – is fairness. We expect it, and when it is taken away, we fight back. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created to protect Americans, but it’s structural flaws and blatantly ambitious leader doomed it from Day One.
A recent poll revealed 75 percent of Americans surveyed believe financial regulators, like Richard Cordray – Director of the CFPB, care more about their own jobs and ambitions than our nation’s economic well-being. Mr. Cordray leads a massive – and growing – federal bureaucracy that reports to no one. Not to a board, not to the President of the United States, and certainly not to the American people.
Mr. Cordray and his lawyers have been chastised by multiple federal judges for their “blatant disregard” for the rule of law. This is precisely why a three-judge panel ruled that the CFPB’s structure is unconstitutional. That ruling would give most in Mr. Cordray’s position reason to recalibrate.
Instead of exercising caution, Mr. Cordray has become the poster child for bureaucrats behaving badly. He has irreversibly tainted what was designed to be a fiercely independent regulatory agency, exempt from Congressional budget influences and civil service pay scales. This independence was supposed to be a strength. Instead, it allowed Mr. Cordray to set his own set of rules, accountable to no one.
Mr. Cordray and his CFPB bureaucrats have a nice set-up. The average salary is more than $118,000, with many making more than $250,000. The bill for their world headquarters is currently four times more than the initial cost estimate, increasing their initial request from $55 million to over $150 million. The largesse extends to Mr. Cordray’s partisan friends, too; he has awarded an ad firm (that worked for the Clinton and Obama campaigns) more than $43.7 million in taxpayer funded contracts.
Efforts to reign in Mr. Cordray have been met with resistance and secrecy. When Mr. Cordray was finally brought before Congress – which required a subpoena – he asked a senior member of Congress “why it mattered to her” when quizzed about the massive taxpayer funded bill for the CFPB’s redesigned headquarters.
In any other agency, in any private company, or in any situation in which Mr. Cordray was accountable to a boss or a board, he would have simply been told: “You’re fired.”
Mr. Cordray’s blatant abuse of expense accounts – with no reprecussions – is infuriating and wrong, but it’s the real harm his regime has caused hardoworking Americans that is inexcusable.
Recently, I held a panel with three fellow state attorneys general and four members of Congress, sponsored by the Rule of Law Defense Fund. The criticisms above were certainly discussed, but we focused on how Mr. Cordray’s actions impact people; how to stop this unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat. Three words: state attorneys general. Time and time again, we have had to challenge the above-the-law nature of the CFPB for promulgating unbalanced rules that preempt state laws and inflict true economic hardship – the loss of credit and jobs – on real people like those I represent in Arkansas.
Mr. Cordray’s mission is to implement overregulations instead of addressing actual problems. His focus has been putting small dollar lenders out of business, rather than looking at the Wells-Fargo loan-creation scandal. Similarly, Mr. Cordray has done little in the wake of the Equifax data breach, which has impacted at least 145 million Americans. Instead, Mr. Cordray is too busy helping plaintiff attorneys turn the CFPB into a publisher’s clearing house.
Financial regulation is not a trending topic on Twitter, but every time I talk to a banker or a small business owner in Arkansas, this is the very first thing I hear. Bankers cannot bank. Lenders cannot lend. Borrowers cannot borrow, leaving consumers and job creators without options or capital. This impacts lives – on a grand scale. The disrespect, manipulation and utter destruction that Mr. Cordray has overseen at the CFPB should earn him not only his termination papers from the CFPB but from government for good.
Leslie Rutledge is Attorney General of Arkansas and the chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association.
Views expressed in op-eds are not the views of The Daily Caller.