If anything, the confirmation hearing held yesterday for Rohit Chopra to be the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau showed us more about the agendas of the members of the Senate Banking Committee and less about learning the priorities and vision that Chopra has for the agency, should he be confirmed. And would it have killed one of the members of the Senate Banking Committee to ask about the debt collection rule and what Chopra’s plans are for it? I mean, really.
The closest that anyone came to learning what Chopra would do with a pending rule if he were confirmed was when he was asked about a rule that was issued in January by the CFPB related to the role of supervisory guidance. That rule, which is scheduled to go into effect this month, was issued under former Director Kathleen Kraninger. When asked if he would change the rule, Chopra admitted that he has “not read that rule specifically,” but added that “guidance can not impose obligations.”
Senators used their five minutes to raise a number of issues, including credit reporting, student lending, protecting servicemembers, and how aggressive Chopra plans to be enforcing consumer protection laws. Chopra handled all the questions and comments in a poised and eloquent manner. The most interesting exchange of the hearing came between Sen. Pat Toomey [R-Pa.]. the Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee, and Chopra, when Sen. Toomey asked about comments Chopra made five years ago with respect to the CFPB’s leadership structure. For context, Sen. Toomey used his time to grind his axe over the fact that the CFPB is “unaccountable” because it is not subject to the Congressional appropriations process. Chopra allegedly said at the time that anyone who was in favor of subjecting the CFPB to the appropriations process or changing the leadership structure of the CFPB to a multi-member commission like the Federal Trade Commission should be “perceived to be shilling for predatory lenders” and were committed to “guttingthe CFPB by starving it of its resources.” Chopra said he regretted the comments if he made them and that individuals who supported those changes were not doing the bidding of predatory lenders.
Chopra did reiterate his commitment — one he has shown during his tenure as a Commissioner at the FTC — to make sure that companies that are found to have committed violations of a law repay consumers for what was taken.
“When victims of fraud and misconduct were not made whole, it hurts every other business that’s doing the right thing and playing by the rules,” said Chopra. “Economically, it doesn’t make sense that if you rip someone off, you don’t have to pay them back.”
If confirmed by the Senate Banking Committee, Chopra’s nomination would go to the entire Senate for a vote.