The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will have its first birthday on Saturday, but we're only cautiously celebrating. The watchdog agency's long-term survival is still an open question.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the bureau, if elected. A complete repeal of the law would dismantle the bureau, which serves as the first line of defense for consumers against businesses, fielding complaints about everything from applying for a mortgage to taking out a loan for college.
The CFPB is the brainchild of Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren, who is now the Democratic challenger to U.S. Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts. The Obama administration spearheaded the creation of the CFPB in response to the financial crisis and housing bust, which some say were caused in part by the predatory marketing of subprime mortgages to lower-income people as housing prices became unsustainably high.
President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law in July 2010. Then the CFPB grew inside the Treasury Department and became an official bureau on July 21, 2011. The bureau was an orphan until Richard Cordray was tapped to lead it in January as a recess appointment made by Obama. Without a director for nearly six months, the CFPB could not regulate the consumer financial industry.
Obama chose not to nominate Warren allegedly because he believed she would not be confirmed by the Senate and because of staunch opposition from the financial industry.
Earlier this week, the Bureau took its first enforcement action, charging Capital One $210 million in fines on Wednesday for deceptive marketing practices, including $140 million in full refunds to about 2 million Capital One customers.
The CFPB released a report on Friday about how the private student loan market has disturbing parallels to the subprime loan market during the housing boom. It has been sounding the alarm about ballooning student loan debt, a market the agency deemed "too big to fail" in March.
The CFPB plans to supervise banks, credit card companies, non-bank lenders and other businesses that affect consumers -- including the largest credit rating agencies.
If you would like to contact the CFPB -- whether to wish them a happy birthday or to let them know about a predatory company policy -- you can reach them here.