We need to protect Richard Cordray’s Legacy at the CFPB
When I read the sad news that Robert Cordray, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would be stepping down at the end of the month, I immediately was reminded of the moment he became one of my heroes.
It was the spring of 2013, and we’d both been appointed by President Obama to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans. Cordray was the first director of a new federal agency, the CFPB. I was writing the early drafts of a book about why and how parents should teach their kids money concepts.
At the new council’s first public meeting in Washington, Cordray was called upon to speak.
“Although it is important for parents to talk to their children about money from an early age,” he said, “many find it difficult or uncomfortable to do so, leaving our young people starved for information. So, we need to begin by recognizing just how rarely families actually engage in these discussions.”
After calling for financial education requirements in school, he returned to the role of families: “We need parents to be involved with their children as their children are learning to master the concepts of personal financial management.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. His words might as well have been the introduction to Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not), my 2017 guide for parents.
In his nearly six years at the CFPB, he shaped it into an essential bulwark for consumers in the wake of the financial crisis. Under Director Cordray, the still-young agency has…
- recovered $12 billion from financial institutions that cheated nearly 30 million U.S. consumers—including a massive fine for Wells Fargo after a fake-accounts scandal.
- put entire industries on notice, including banks, for-profit colleges, student loan servicers, credit bureaus, and payday lenders.
- released annual reports detailing advances in financial education.
- and expanded access to financial education. As part of that effort, he adopted Money as You Grow, the online tool I helped develop for teaching kids of various ages the financial facts of life—launching a related book club to engage families.
It’s an amazing record of accomplishment for a former “Jeopardy!” champion and Ohio attorney general who applied his smarts to bettering every American consumer’s financial situation. As Cordray leaves the stage, he is even getting respect from those he regulated. “He came into the position during a tumultuous time and was successful in solidifying the role the bureau plays in protecting consumers,” wrote the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, who spearheaded the creation of the agency that Cordray led so ably, has already warned against installing a replacement who is any less dedicated to fighting to educate American consumers and protect their rights.
“He is a dedicated public servant and a tireless watchdog for American consumers—and he will be missed,” Warren said in a statement. “The new Director of the CFPB must be someone with a track record of protecting consumers and holding financial firms responsible when they cheat people. This is no place for another Trump-appointed industry hack.”
As Cordray memorably said at another point in our work together, “the word that repeatedly comes to mind … is ‘amen.’” Tell your representatives that you’re thankful for Richard Cordray’s work, and demand that they confirm a new CFPB director who can expand on his legacy, not dismantle it.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.