October 21, 2020

Former Federal Consumer Watchdog talks politics, new book

In addition to being the husband of Capital Law Professor Margaret “Peggy” Cordray, Richard Cordray holds many titles. 

Such titles include, but are not limited to, five-time Jeopardy! Champion, former Ohio Attorney General, the first Head Director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Ohio’s Democratic nominee for governor and most recently–author. 

Cordray spoke with The Chimes about his new book titled Watchdog: How Protecting Consumers Can Save our Families, our Economy and our Democracy as well as many other topics. 

Cordray’s book tells the story of building a federal agency from scratch. The CFPB was originally the idea of then Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren. Its purpose is to protect Consumers from shady practices by banks and loan companies. 

The bureau was created in the aftermath of The Recession that occurred in 2007/2008. The hopes were that by having a strong financial regulator in place, the banks could not once again force the U.S. economy into a downward spiral. 

The CFPB was created through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. After ending his tenure as Ohio Attorney General, Cordray was asked by Warren to come jumpstart this new agency. Later, on Warren’s recommendation, President Barack Obama appointed Cordray to serve as the first official Head Director of the bureau. 

Cordray wrote Watchdog because he felt like it was, “a story that should be told.” It was a story about “consumers- which is all of us” and that’s who the book is for. The book tells the story of what it’s like to work in Washington. It tells the story of how big banks can destroy the country if left unchecked. It even tells the story of working with Donald Trump. 

Richard Cordray, former Director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Richard Cordray. Photo taken by Saul Loab. Courtesy of NPR.

In his book, Cordray recounts the time he almost got fired. While the CFPB director can only be fired for cause and not at the will of the President (a rule that is currently being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court), Trump was close to firing Cordray anyway. 

The GOP has long disliked the CFPB. Cordray says the reason for this is because of the lobbying that the Republican Party received from banks and loan companies. 

One day while Cordray was in Tampa, he got a phone call. “Please hold for the President,” they said on the other end. But the call ultimately ended and Cordray kept his job. Apparently, some members of the GOP and lobbyists had convinced Trump to deliver his infamous catch phrase, “You’re fired!” to Cordray when at the last minute, former White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly stepped in and saved Cordray’s job. 

Aside from just telling the story of the CFPB and giving good advice, Cordray hopes that in writing this book, it will give the bureau more visibility and will allow the everyday consumer and voter to know that there is a portion of the government that is there to help you when you’re cheated. 

It is not a Democratic or Republican institution, but rather a bipartisan and independent one that has the backs of all consumers, and that it is here to stay. 

Given the amount of time Cordray and Warren spent together starting the CFPB, it came as no surprise that when Sen. Warren ran for President she won over the ringing endorsement of Cordray. However, following Warren’s departure from the race, Cordray immediately endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Cordray was asked why he chose to support Vice President Biden. He answered saying he supports Joe Biden for, “a lot of the reasons he supported Sen. Warren in the first place.” 

Cordray cited working alongside the Vice President during his tenure at the CFPB. He said he knows Joe Biden, and Biden is “someone who can and has gotten things done.” 

Cordray also said he knew Biden’s late son Beau pretty well as they both served as Attorney Generals at the same time. Cordray capped off his statement on Biden by saying that he knows the former VP “has a big heart for the middle class.” He referred to Biden heading President Obama’s middle class initiative as well as Biden working with Cordray on issues such as student loan relief. 

In the wake of the Coronavirus, Cordray has been making the rounds throughout media platforms to warn consumers about what he called “lowlife” scammers. He referred to scams where people claim to have testing kits or treatment that you can buy from them. 

He also warned that scammers may claim that you have to give them your account information in order to receive your stimulus check. 

Cordray stresses that consumers should “be very suspicious and very careful” of anyone asking for their financial information in the wake of this virus. 

In order to combat these malpractices Cordray referenced a “white paper” that he and others were working on that has since been released. 

This white paper is meant to push the CFPB and its current leadership to “do more to protect consumers” in the midst of this global pandemic. It also makes sure that debt collectors do not violate the “Fair Debt Collection Practices Act” which ensures that debt collectors do not harass, oppress or abuse anyone. 

Also in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak, Cordray was asked about Governor DeWine’s response to the virus. Cordray ran against DeWine in the 2018 race for governor. 

Cordray expressed concern for the economy but also said that he, “knows [DeWine] is approaching it from the standpoint of healthcare being dealt with first,” and Cordray, “respects that.” 

Cordray did give some advice for students too. He believes that the best advice he has for them is to know what kind of loans they have, and what options they have for paying them before they have to start paying for them. 

Cordray mentions that with government loans, students are entitled to an income based system of paying back their loans. He also mentioned the student loan forgiveness that government employees can receive after working for the government for ten years. 

Cordray was asked what his plans for the future were. He said he “did not know for sure.” 

Cordray said he may run for office again, or he may not. As of right now, he is busy promoting his new book. Although, that has come to a sort of screeching halt in the face of COVID-19. 
Cordray’s book Watchdog can be found at bookstores nationwide and in electronic format.

  • J.J. is a Junior Political Science major and a Political Correspondent for The Chimes. J.J. served in the Capital University Student Government and has helped on different political campaigns. You can email him at jprice3@capital.edu.

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