EDITORIAL: Reject the trial-lawyer czar

Leave the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without a leader

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The legacy of President Obama’s time in office has been an unprecedented expansion of the federal government. A perfect example of this is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which is part of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law. Even though this brand-new bureaucracy opened for business in July, most Americans have never heard of it - and they won’t so long as it remains leaderless.

Senate Republicans held strong against the possible nomination of Elizabeth Warren, Mr. Obama’s presumed first choice to run this $329 million drain on taxpayer resources. If there was ever any doubt about Ms. Warren’s status as a political lackey, her latest move has been to run as a Democrat for the Massachusetts Senate seat held by Republican Scott Brown. Earlier this month, however, the Senate Banking Committee voted 12-10 along party lines to approve the nomination of someone who may be even worse: Richard Cordray.

In his brief time as Ohio’s attorney general, Mr. Cordray distinguished himself before the trial bar by filing a class-action lawsuit against the likes of Bank of America over the drop in value of the company’s stock. No doubt this has trial lawyers around the country salivating at the possibility of getting someone on the inside with nearly unlimited power. Forty-four Republican senators signed a letter refusing to confirm anyone until this structure is changed.

The law as it stands gives the new agency’s director the unchecked power of banning any bank offering that he personally deems to be “unfair, deceptive or abusive.” This differs from the other independent financial regulatory agencies, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve, the National Credit Union Administration and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, where authority is distributed through a bipartisan board of directors.

While CFPB is supposed to protect the public from predatory Wall Street financial products, a look at the agency’s job listings shows it represents another cushy lifetime gig for the self-enrichment of 883 new bureaucrats. While ordinary Americans have had to make do with less, those same oppressed taxpayers will fork over up to $187,800 per year for a CFPB “policy analyst.” Program analysts can make a more modest $123,250, and procurement analysts pocket $149,0356. This doesn’t count the retirement package, 36 days of paid time off each year, bonuses, Metro subsidies and generous health benefits.

Long after the Obama administration has left town, Americans will be left paying these salaries and obligations as well as those of all the other duplicative and wasteful programs fueled by this White House’s $4.2 trillion borrowing-and-spending binge. It’s too late to close this particular agency’s doors, but Senate Republicans have a unique opportunity to make a difference if they hold firm against the urge to compromise by denying Mr. Cordray - or anyone else - the director title.

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