Personal Finance

CFPB Head Faces Tough Questions From Congress

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The federal consumer watchdog agency recently celebrated its first birthday, but GOP lawmakers are attacking it as vehemently as ever, questioning why it hasn’t done more to encourage lending to consumers.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee recently held federal Consumer Financial Protection bureau director Richard Cordray’s feet to the fire about the reasons for slower lending efforts for certain types of credit, according to a report from the news site Politico. In particular, they want to know why the agency’s rules haven’t been enough to encourage lenders to broaden the credit qualifications needed to obtain mortgages and small business loans.

Cordray defended his position by saying that the CFPB has only had one year of full regulatory power with which it could work, and the tightened lending conditions have existed for far longer than that, the report said. In fact, many of the rules the agency has created to change the lending environment for financial institutions and consumers alike haven’t been finalized yet, and therefore any changes they might create wouldn’t take place until they are.

The director also noted that he and his agency have been hampered somewhat by demands from lawmakers opposed to the CFPB, as well as smaller institutions that fear they could see their bottom lines altered significantly by heavier regulation, the report said. Cordray said that, in general, banks have kept lending restrictions tight – particularly on sizable lines of credit like small business loans and mortgages – because of their own concerns about consumer creditworthiness.

Some lawmakers, though, came to Cordray and the CFPB’s defense, the report said.

“I think that it’s very difficult to blame his office for the credit crunch that we find ourselves in,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), according to the site. “I think he’s doing a great job.”

Cordray has only been in office since January. Prior to that, the agency operated with only an acting director, under whose purview it mostly tackled only issues directly related to consumers’ credit cards.

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Meanwhile, lending efforts for other types of loans, particularly credit cards and auto financing, has expanded considerably in the last few months alone and now millions of borrowers with subprime credit scores are able to qualify for them. Mortgage lenders in particular have been criticized for keeping restrictions tighter than necessary even as consumer credit nationwide has improved considerably.

Image: rpongsaj, via Flickr

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