Elizabeth Warren on her role and the future goals of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Marketplace Staff Dec 11, 2010

Elizabeth Warren on her role and the future goals of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Marketplace Staff Dec 11, 2010


Steve Chiotakis: Congress passed major financial reform last summer with the intent of regulating banks. One of the big selling points was a consumer financial watchdog.

That watchdog was Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren’s idea. Warren was reportedly President Obama’s choice to head the bureau. But some members of Congress — and to be sure, banks — objected, saying she would come down too hard on financial institutions. So the president instead tapped her to help set up the bureau.

And Professor Warren is with us from Washington this morning. Thanks for being with us.

Elizabeth Warren: It’s a pleasure.

Chiotakis: The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act — boy, it’s a long title — was passed back in the summer. How would you say the implementation’s going?

Warren: We’re getting started, starting to build all the pieces. It feels a little like building an airplane, you know, lots of complicated parts to it, but lots of possibility if we get it put together the right way.

Chiotakis: What will be the first thing, do you think, consumers will notice as a result of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

Warren: I think they should already be starting to notice. We’ve identified our priorities as making the price of credit clear, as making the risks associated with the credit clear, and making it easy to compare one product to another. I think what we’re starting to see is some number of lenders who are starting to change their products, because I think they realize that’s what American families want.

Chiotakis: Would you, do you think, have more authority to set things up had you been named the official, the full-on, head of this bureau?

Warren: There were always two jobs on the table: one was to be nominated to be the head, which would mean hearings and back-and-forth and probably something going on by sometime early next year; or the President said the alternative, there’s a job getting started right now to get this agency going. And I said what I’d really like to do is start making it go right now. And I haven’t regretted the decision at all.

Chiotakis: What do you tell people who say government shouldn’t have its hands in this at all?

Warren: In that case, you end up in a world where people who want to offer good products can’t do it because they’re having to compete with those who are willing to offer products loaded with tricks and traps. That’s a market that doesn’t work. And the job of the government, the job of the cop on the beat, is to say, ‘Hey look, everybody’s gotta be willing to tell upfront what the real cost is.’ That’s what causes markets to be competitive; that’s what causes them to work on behalf of middle-class families.

Chiotakis: Professor Elizabeth Warren, from Washington D.C. Professor, thanks.

Warren: Thank you for having me.

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