Less than two weeks after Obama nominated Richard Cordray for CFPB Director, Elizabeth Warren has swept out of town and returned to Harvard.  Meanwhile, Cordray has not made any public announcements, posted comments about his nomination on the CFPB’s website, or otherwise been heard from in any significant way.  He seems determined to stay quiet until at least his August 4th Senate confirmation hearing.

And, even though a CFPB Director has been named, the Department of the Treasury announced that Raj Date, the CFPB’s Associate Director of Research, Markets and Regulations, will replace Elizabeth Warren as the Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as of August 1st.

Changes at the top can be difficult even in the most stable, well-established organizations.  In the CFPB’s case, these changes just add to the sense of trepidation that we all have about when enforcement actions are going to begin and how the CFPB will exercise its considerable authority (limited though it is at the moment because the Director has not been confirmed).

What is going on?  Well, here are a few conjectures:

  1. Cordray is silent because he is following the Washington protocol for nominees waiting to be confirmed — a protocol of keeping the lowest profile possible and refusing to speak to the press.  I suppose that in spite of the Republicans threatening to never confirm a CFPB Director without changes to the CFPB, Cordray is doing his level best to give himself as much opportunity of being confirmed as he possibly can.  In this particular instance, I think that following the protocol might be more harmful to Cordray’s chances of being confirmed than not following the protocol.  Remaining silent and not stepping in to do something to fill the immense void left by Elizabeth Warren’s departure could make even the most ardent supporters of the CFPB wonder whether Cordray is up to the job.
  2. Elizabeth Warren left because — well — wouldn’t you?
  3. Raj Date was appointed to replace Elizabeth Warren, even though there is a named CFPB Director, because of the stunning silence coming from Cordray and the need for SOMEONE to continue to propel the CFPB forward.  Or, perhaps, Date was disappointed by not being named CFPB Director himself (several news reports speculated that he was on the short list of candidates), and, this appointment is somewhat of a consolation prize.

Hopefully we will have a better sense of how the new leadership of the CFPB will differ from Elizabeth Warren’s approach soon and the industry can adjust accordingly.