Senate confirms Rohit Chopra as consumer watchdog

Rohit Chopra (Courtesy of twitter)

Indian American regulator returns to the agency he helped set up after its enactment in 2010 Dodd-Frank law

The Senate has confirmed Indian American Rohit Chopra as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau putting in place a seasoned regulator and Wall Street critic to keep watch on predatory lending.

Chopra, who for the last three years served at the Federal Trade Commission, was approved in a 50-48 Senate vote on Sept 30. He returns to the bureau he had helped Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren set up after its enactment in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

No Republican supported his nomination, reflecting long-running antagonism from the right over the very existence of the consumer bureau, which Democrats set up a decade ago to crack down on predatory lending, according to Politico.

Read: Indian American Rohit Chopra to lead consumer bureau (January 18, 2021)

Chopra is expected to revive a more aggressive posture toward the finance industry after Democrats blasted the Trump administration for weakening consumer safeguards, it said.

The agency under interim leadership for the last eight months has already taken some initial steps to address lenders’ pandemic-era treatment of consumers and to advance the Biden administration’s racial justice priorities, the political news website noted.

Politico described Chopra’s confirmation as “the latest victory for progressives who have so far succeeded in putting their stamp on the Biden administration’s recruitment of top financial regulators.”

“Rohit is a terrific champion for consumers,” Warren said in a statement. “I look forward to his leadership at the bureau as he works to return it to its core mission of protecting consumers from discrimination and predatory institutions.”

A Wharton-trained MBA, Chopra worked for management consultancy McKinsey & Co. before entering government. After the CFPB launched in 2011, he served as the agency’s assistant director and as student loan ombudsperson.

In 2018, he became a commissioner at the FTC, where he pushed for more aggressive enforcement and greater liability for bad actors, including corporate executives. He also called for more oversight of private equity-backed company takeovers.

“If there are unlawful, egregious practices, it is important for enforcement to make sure that they stop — that’s what’s best for consumers, that’s what’s best for the honest market participants and that’s the role Congress has asked the CFPB to play,” Chopra said at his March confirmation hearing for the consumer bureau post.

Read: Trump to nominate Indian American Rohit Chopra as FTC Commissioner (October 20, 2017)

Biden’s campaign platform included a proposal to create a government-run credit reporting agency at the CFPB to compete with the private firms and combat racial disparities in credit scores.

Credit and consumer reporting complaints accounted for more than 58 percent of the record 542,300 complaints the bureau received last year, according to the agency’s most recent annual report.

As the top student loan official at the CFPB during the Obama administration, Chopra aggressively pursued for-profit colleges, private student lenders and the loan servicing companies hired by the Education Department, Politico noted.

He also went after how financial institutions market and sell debit cards and other products on campuses. It’s widely expected that Chopra will continue to scrutinize those industries as the bureau’s director.

One of the first big challenges Chopra will face is addressing CFPB employee complaints of workplace racism that date back to the Obama administration, according to Politico.

Read: Chuck Schumer recommends Indian American Rohit Chopra for FTC (May 10, 2017)

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents the bureau’s workers, is urging Chopra to fix salary disparities it has identified among Black, Hispanic and Native American employees.

During his vetting to lead the CFPB, Chopra pledged to be transparent about workplace salaries and benefits and to work with staff on the agency’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan, according to Politico.

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