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New Consumer Agency Plans Symbolic Move

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WhiteHouse_Adreas_Praefcke_WikimediaThe new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new home will be prominent – and symbolic. The bureau, which has the power to regulate how banks and credit card companies treat consumers, is currently operating in temporary offices in Washington, D.C.

But sometime next year, the bureau will move into a building right across the street from the White House.

“The White House is one of the most frequent destinations for tourists who come to Washington,” Elizabeth Warren, President Obama’s special advisor in charge of creating the bureau, said in a recent blog post. “We want Americans to see where we work, to know that this is a place where financial cops are trained, and to be reminded that we are always looking out.

The location has special significance because the offices were formerly occupied by the Office of Thrift Supervision, which did such a poor job regulating banks that Congress actually disbanded it last year. The agency was roundly criticized by members of Congress for failing to enforce banking laws, especially in the case of Washington Mutual, which failed in 2008.

“OTS repeatedly identified significant problems with Washington Mutual’s lending practices, risk management, and asset quality, but failed to force adequate corrective action, resulting in the largest bank failure in U.S. history,” according to a statement by Senator Carl Levin (D – MI).

Warren and the new bureau have come under constant attack from Republicans and bank executives for being overly tough on banks and credit card companies. While she didn’t come out and taunt the banks, Warren’s announcement that she would be taking over their former lackey’s space made clear that she plans the new agency to have a different worldview.

“We want the building to have as much public space as possible. We’re hoping that we can open up parts of the lobby and the adjacent patio for families and service groups,” she wrote in her blog. “This agency belongs to the American public, and we want the American public to be welcome.”

Image: Andreas Praefcke, via Wikimedia Commons

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