Obama gives pep talk to consumer bureau

@CNNMoney January 6, 2012: 2:15 PM ET

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- President Obama gave a pep talk Friday to the staff of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- including the new director he controversially appointed this week.

"Every one of you here has a critical role to play in making sure that everybody's playing by the same rules -- to make sure the big banks on Wall Street play by the same rules as community banks on Main Street," Obama said.

The bureau is likely to face a bumpy road after the president's recess appointment of Richard Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, as the bureau's first official director.

Obama's move angered Republicans in Congress who had tried for months to prevent the president from making exactly that appointment unless he agreed to structural changes in the consumer bureau. They say the bureau -- which came into existence last year as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms -- is unaccountable and they deny the legitimacy of the appointment, saying Congress isn't in recess.

The administration counters that the pro-forma sessions aimed at blocking the recess appointments aren't legitimate, and that the president has a Constitutional obligation to appoint people to keep government running.

A House Republican panel has called Cordray to testify later this month. And business groups are talking about a legal challenge to the bureau's authority.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is an independent agency created as part of the Wall Street reforms of 2010 tasked with regulating financial products such as mortgages and credit cards.

As its new chief, Cordray has said he plans to move forward and not worry about potential lawsuits that may challenge his agency's powers.

In his address on Friday, Obama praised the bureau for moving forward to target nonbank firms that issue financial products such as payday lenders, debt collectors and mortgage servicers -- sectors that remained unregulated while the bureau lacked an official director.

"Now that Richard is your director, you can finally exercise the full powers that this agency has been given under the law," Obama said. "No longer are consumers left alone to face the risk of unfair or deceptive or abusive practices. Not any more."

Obama gave a "special shoutout" to Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard University professor who came up with the idea of the bureau. The White House bypassed Warren, a critic of the banking industry and lightning rod to Republicans, in favor of nominating Cordray to run the bureau. Warren is now running for the U.S. Senate.

The mention of Warren's name drew big cheers from the crowd of 100 employees attending the speech at the main offices of the bureau, which now has a staff of around 800. To top of page

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