CFPB Hearing Makes For Great Theater, But Does Little Else

It was the very definition of Good Cop, Bad Cop.

Richard Cordray, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, went before the House Financial Services Committee and faced Republicans who want him fired and Democrats who want him christened as a saint.

Hearings allow each member of the committee five minutes of time with the witness. Some use it as an opportunity to preen and others use it as an opportunity to ask questions. The rules of Congress require that the questions alternate between Republican and Democratic members, so Cordray faced five minutes of withering criticisms and calls for his firing followed by five minutes of compliments and offers of daughters for him to marry. And back and forth it went for nearly four hours.

The hearing started off with Rep. Jeb Hensarling [R-Texas], the chairman of the Committee and one of Cordray’s most vocal critics, saying that the director should be fired. It wrapped up with Rep. Patrick McHenry [R-N.C.], the vice chairman of the committee, saying there was evidence that insider trading took place the day before a lawsuit against student loan servicer Navient was filed by the CFPB. It was not clear whether the insider trading was alleged to have been done by CFPB staffers or people outside of the Bureau who may have learned about the lawsuit before it was filed.

Cordray said he was unaware of any insider trading and pledged the full cooperation of the CFPB in investigating the claim.

Cordray was also asked by Rep. Lee Zeldin [R-N.Y.] whether he intends to fulfill his five-year term, which expires in 2018. Cordray, perhaps surprisingly, said, “I have no insight into that.”

Cordray was also accused by a Republican that he used a personal smartphone to conduct agency business, a contentious five minutes that included Cordray saying he was a victim of “character assassination.”

It was clear that the strategy for Committee Republicans was to paint a picture that Cordray deserved to be fired for cause, which is the only circumstance under which he can currently be removed from his position.

Rep. Hensarling accused Cordray and the CFPB of choosing to enact “discretionary” rules instead of first focusing on the mandatory rules that the CFPB must enact as part of its mandate.

“Choosing discretionary rulemaking over mandatory rulemaking is removal for cause grounds,” Rep. Hensarling said during the hearing.

Democrats, meanwhile, lauded Cordray and the CFPB for standing up for Americans, and criticized Republicans for their attacks.

“You might be one of the most disliked people in D.C. by anyone willing to take a bribe,” said Rep. Charlie Crist [D-Fla.]. “I hope you wear that with pride.”

Watch a replay of the hearing here:

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