Friday, July 8, 2011

Meet Elizabeth Warren

Business Week has a good article on Elizabeth Warren, here are some key bits:
Elizabeth Warren’s admirers often refer to her as a grandmother from Oklahoma. This is technically true. It’s also what you might call posturing. Warren, 62, is a Harvard professor and perhaps the country’s top expert on bankruptcy law. Over the past four years she has managed to stoke a fervent debate over the government’s role in protecting American consumers from what she sees as the predatory practices of financial institutions, and she has positioned herself as the person to oversee a new federal agency to rewrite the rules of lending. Warren is a grandma from Oklahoma in roughly the same way Ralph Nader is a pensioner with a thing about cars.


Warren’s aides say she first pitched the idea of a consumer financial protection agency to then-Senator Barack Obama’s office months before her fateful meeting with the executive. Whatever the idea’s provenance, there’s no doubting its influence. In a summer 2007 article in the journal Democracy, Warren outlined what her guardian agency would look like. “It is impossible to buy a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house,” she wrote. “But it is possible to refinance an existing home with a mortgage that has the same one-in-five chance of putting the family out on the street—and the mortgage won’t even carry a disclosure of that fact to the homeowner.” One was effectively regulated. The other was not.


On July 21, exactly a year after Dodd-Frank became law, the CFPB is scheduled to open for business with a broad mandate to root out “unfair, deceptive, or abusive” lending practices. Consolidating functions previously scattered across seven different agencies, the bureau will have the power to dictate the terms of every consumer lending product on the market, from mortgages and credit cards to student, overdraft, and car loans. It will supervise not only banks and credit unions but credit-card companies, mortgage servicers, credit bureaus, debt collectors, payday lenders, and check-cashing shops. Dozens of researchers will track trends in the lending market and keep an eye on new products. Teams of examiners will prowl the halls of financial institutions to ensure compliance. The bureau is already at work on its first major initiative: simplifying the bewildering bank forms you sign when you buy a house.


One other person she has not yet won over: Barack Obama. The President has not nominated her to head the bureau. Instead, last fall he gave her the title of special assistant to the President and special adviser to the Treasury and tasked her with getting the place up and running. For now, she is the non-head of a non-agency. The White House refuses to say whether Obama will eventually put her up for the job, allowing only that he is considering several candidates. In the coded language of appointment politics, it is a signal that they are seriously considering passing Warren over for someone else. A White House official says the Administration would like to have a nominee in place before Congress leaves for its August recess.


The bureau is less willing to discuss the specifics of what will happen when it finds evidence of wrongdoing. The press office refused to make the head of enforcement, Richard Cordray, available for an interview. Like other enforcement agencies, the CFPB will have a variety of measures at its fingertips: It will be able to give firms a talking-to, or issue so-called “supervisory guidance” papers on problematic financial products. It will be able to send cease-and-desist orders. And if all else fails, the bureau will be able to take offenders to court.
Go read the whole article.

I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Warren. I hope she has the effect that the writers for Business Week think she has. I'm afraid that the banking industry and insurance industry and retail industry, etc. will find ways to cut her off at the knees, disarm her, wrap her proposed agency in red tape, and effectively "deregulate" themselves. They are paying lots of money under the table to buy off the politicians. I don't give the agency much chance to have any real teeth or do anything significant to rein in corrupt business practices. But I desperately hope I'm wrong.

I also believe that centre-right Obama has decided to pull a Caylee Anthony on her, i.e. put duct tape over her mouth and bury her in some swamp to rot. He is too cosy with his business friends to really want this new agency to succeed. It would upset his business "buddies". Who cares that US consumers are raped and robbed. So long as he gives heart-felt speeches and shows his pearly whites at photo-ops, the voters will be too dumb to realize they have been snookered by this "socialist" Obama who is tighter with his business peeps than a pimp is to his "girls".

No comments: