Today, I was appointed by President Obama to serve as the first Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I am honored by this opportunity to continue my work on behalf of consumers. And I am energized by the responsibilities and challenges facing the Bureau.
The importance of this day has less to do with me personally and much more to do with you – and the millions of individuals and families across the country who access consumer financial markets every day to participate in our economy and to pursue their dreams and aspirations. That’s because now, with a Director, the CFPB can exercise its full authorities – with respect to both banks and nonbanks – to help those markets operate fairly, transparently, and competitively.
Consumer finance is a big part of our economy – and it plays a large role in the daily life of almost every American. Few people spend their entire lives with so much wealth available to them that they never need to borrow money. Whether it is to pay the bills and meet their everyday needs, or to finance larger investments in their futures like an education or a home, most people find it necessary to use financial products to access credit.
Financial products can help make life better, but they can also make life harder. Most of us know at least someone – a parent or sibling or friend – who has money troubles. Sometimes, those troubles are caused by a tough break or just not having enough money to go around; other times, by a poor decision. But sometimes, those consumer money troubles arise out of problems in the consumer financial markets. I have seen senior citizens lose their life savings to scams and fraud. I have seen young adults start their lives with crushing student loan debt burdens that they cannot afford. I have seen families bankrupted, and thrown out of their homes, by complex mortgages with spiraling interest costs and monthly payments that were never clearly explained.
In its first six months, the CFPB has taken significant steps to make consumer financial markets more transparent so they work better for consumers and for responsible businesses. Our Know Before You Owe campaign has worked to improve disclosures and make the costs, risks, and benefits of financial transactions easier for consumers to understand. We have also launched our bank supervision program. CFPB examiners are now on the ground at the nation’s largest financial institutions, reviewing documents and asking tough questions about how these banks are complying with consumer financial protection laws.
One difficulty we faced until now was that, without a director, we were unable to address all the problems we were created to tackle. In particular, we lacked the ability to supervise financial institutions other than big banks – like nonbank mortgage lenders and servicers, and payday lenders. Many of these institutions had no regular federal oversight in the run up to the financial crisis. They led a race to the bottom that pushed aside responsible businesses, including community banks and credit unions, and greatly harmed consumers.
I am pleased to say that, starting today, we can now exercise the full authorities granted to us under the law and begin to supervise these nonbanks. Standing up this program is a top priority for the CFPB. Over the coming weeks we’ll be announcing more information about this program and how it will help to improve the consumer financial markets.
As we move forward, please let us know what you think. My colleagues and I are determined to deliver positive results for American consumers in all of our efforts. We want people to know what we are doing and we want to hear their reactions. We are confident that, with help and input from consumers and honest businesses, we can play an important role in safeguarding consumers, consumer financial markets, and the American economy.