Quoting Mark Twain, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray seemed right at home when he gave brief remarks in St. Louis during the bureau’s first Consumer Advisory Board meeting on September 27, 2012. The meeting was open to the public, but no agenda was provided.

With approximately 200 in attendance, Director Cordray and members of his leadership team, including Deputy Director Raj Date, addressed the audience and provided a summary of the bureau’s accomplishments during its first year in existence and a snapshot of its future priorities.

Director Cordray applauded the “Know Before You Owe” program and explained that providing an opportunity for consumers to tell their stories has given the CFPB a roadmap toward consumer protection. He also emphasized that the bureau’s future success depends upon accessibility to the American public.

After swearing in the 25 members of the Consumer Advisory Board, leadership of the board provided brief remarks, focusing on the “protection” characteristic of the CFPB and providing insight from what was clearly a consumer perspective.

Deputy Director Raj Date underscored that the CFPB is a “data driven agency,” but countered that while the CFPB will make policy decisions based upon evidence that it derives, it will also take a pragmatic approach to both examination and enforcement of the entities that it regulates. Date then displayed a series of slides noting the net worth decline of households and nonprofits during the economic downturn. Yet, he also illustrated that an overwhelming majority of Americans have access to banking accounts. Date stated, however, that access to credit has declined over the last several years.

The board then engaged in a roundtable discussion regarding a variety of issues, including the examination of non-bank lenders, mortgage bankers and brokers, and debt collection companies. The mortgage market and access to mortgage credit dominated the board’s first meeting. Lender representatives pointed to a dramatic increase in investors buying foreclosed properties, many of which are being converted to rental properties. The board also discussed access to financial literacy, student lending and predatory lending.

Finally, members of the audience were given an opportunity to make statements. The vast majority of those who commented represented grassroots organizations, community-centered groups and other human service organizations.