Has Obama Found a Replacement for Elizabeth Warren at the CFPB?

According to Bloomberg News and other news outlets, the Obama administration is considering appointing Raj Date, a top deputy to Elizabeth Warren at the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), as the bureau’s permanent director before it goes live on July 21. The articles are all attributed to “a person familiar with the discussions,” which makes it clear that the White House if floating Date’s appointment as a trial balloon, to gauge reaction from financial reform advocates, the business community and members of Congress. This is not an entirely new story—Reuters reported that “close associates” of Warren were under consideration back in April—but this is the first time Date has been named as a potential candidate.

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Ari Berman
Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation…

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Date is well-regarded in the business world and among reform advocates, which is why he’s an attractive option for the administration. He worked for Capitol One and Deutsche Bank, served on the board of a peer-to-peer lending company, Prosper Marketplace, started his own economic policy research firm, Cambridge Winter Center, and was a board member at Demos, a liberal think tank. Heather McGhee, director of Demos’ Washington office, called Date “one of the most effective advocates for consumer financial protection during the debate that culminated in the Dodd-Frank Act.”

Which isn’t to stay he’s a better pick than Warren, who remains the preferred candidate among financial reform advocates. He’s still a banking industry veteran at a time when the public remains skeptical of the banks, and it’s unclear if he has the moxy and stature to go up against the $3 trillion financial services industry. He’s a skilled technocrat, adept at working behind the scenes, but not necessarily the type of dynamic leader and charasmatic public face the new bureau needs in order to establish its identity and credibility among the public. The CFPB was Warren’s idea, and she’s the most qualified person to run the bureau.

Senate Republicans have made clear they’ll try to block whoever the administration picks to formally run the CFPB, which virtually guarantees a recess appointment. The banking lobby hates the bureau as much as Warren, which means that any “consensus candidate” is bound to face fierce resistance once the CFPB is up and running. Support continues to grow for a Warren appointment, including an endorsement today from the AFL-CIO, which is by far the biggest group to come out in favor of a recess appointment thus far.

Yet the Obama administration seems determined to push Warren out the door at the very moment it needs her the most. She’s the best spokesperson Obama has on economic policy, especially compared to a Wall Street–friendly stiff like Tim Geithner, and has spent her whole life fighting for the middle class, which is the stated priority of the Obama administration. The consumer bureau is the most popular and tangible aspect of Dodd-Frank, which was the most popular piece of legislation enacted by the administration in its first two years in office. Yet the bureau and Dodd-Frank are under attack from the banking lobby and Congressional Republicans, who’d like to return to the pre–financial crisis status quo. Any retreat by the Obama administration will hand opponents of reform a major victory—and embolden them to go further.

Four of the nation’s biggest banks—JP Morgan, Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs—are among the ten most unpopular companies in America, according to a new Harris Interactive poll. The public hates the banks. And they love Warren and consumer protection. Who to side with should be a no-brainer for the Obama administration.

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