Consumer bureau to be run by committee

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau logo.

Tess Vigeland: Today a House committee voted to change the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That's the new agency that's supposed to protect people from things like exploding mortgages and onerous credit card terms. Under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, it was to be headed by one person. But Republicans want it to be run by a committee, instead.

Marketplace's John Dimsdale has more from Washington.


John Dimsdale: When the financial protection bureau was fiercely debated last summer, sponsors of the bill -- like Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank -- rejected the idea of the traditional three- or five-member commission to decide regulations.

Barney Frank: We made a conscious decision to have a single director.

Frank says because the Senate is asked to confirm politically balanced commissions, like the Federal Communications Commission or the Securities and Exchange Commission, the usual result of their votes is stalemate.

Frank: The history of those commission agencies, given the politicization of the confirmation process, is that much of the time they're out of commission.

But advocates of a commission say decisions reached by building consensus among several appointees are more effective. Barbara Matthews is a former staffer for both Congress and Treasury and now with the consulting firm, BCM International Regulatory Analytics.

Barbara Matthews: The more people you have in a room, dealing with difficult issues, the more your opportunity for getting a good decision exists.

And when there's just one director, it will change with each new president, creating more radical swings in regulations, says Columbia law professor Peter Strauss.

Peter Strauss: The multi-member commission, because its membership changes only gradually, is much more likely to hold a steadier, middle course.

And that makes the one director nominated by the president a much tougher sell on Capitol Hill.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...