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Biden choices for CFPB, SEC signal pivot to robust enforcement

WASHINGTON - President-elect Joe Biden is set to nominate Rohit Chopra, the former student loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to lead the consumer finance agency.

And Biden will tap Gary Gensler, the former chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, to run the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The choice of the Obama-era regulators to lead two key agencies overseeing the financial sector signals the incoming Biden team's intent to provide an aggressive check on the industry after four years of deregulation and light-touch enforcement under the Trump administration.

"Our administration will hit the ground running to deliver immediate, urgent relief to Americans; confront the overlapping crises of COVID-19, the historic economic downturn, systemic racism and inequality, and the climate crisis; and get this government working for the people it serves," Biden said in a statement. "These tireless public servants will be a key part of our agenda to build back better - and I am confident they will help make meaningful change and move our country forward."

Chopra, who has served since 2018 as a Democratic commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission, is an acolyte of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. He worked with her on establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) before joining it in 2011 to lead its efforts in exposing abuses in the student lending market.

Chopra brought a background as a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, who, as a consultant with the global management firm McKinsey & Co., had focused on student debt and other consumer credit markets. At the CFPB, he called out private student lenders for their treatment of borrowers and helped lay the groundwork for President Barack Obama's Student Aid Bill of Rights, focused on providing borrowers more power with loan servicers. He has been a similarly outspoken industry critic at the FTC, pressing for more aggressive enforcement actions against tech companies and others. Chopra declined to comment Monday on his appointment to lead the CFPB.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, expected to chair the Senate Banking Committee that will handle Chopra's nomination, praised his selection, calling him a "bold and experienced choice."

"I am confident that Mr. Chopra will not only return the CFPB to its central mission - protecting consumers - but also ensure the agency plays a leading role in combatting racial inequities in our financial system," Brown said in a statement.

Democrats have criticized the agency's current director, Kathy Kraninger, saying she undermined the office's mission by rolling back rules on businesses and not enforcing those on the books. She is serving a five-year term that runs through 2023. But because of a Supreme Court ruling in June, Biden can fire her as soon as he takes office.

Published : January 19, 2021

By : The Washington Post · Tory Newmyer