UPDATE 1-US Senate votes to confirm new chief consumer watchdog

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By Katanga Johnson

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (Reuters) – The US Senate voted on Thursday to confirm Rohit Chopra as the chief consumer watchdog, widely hailed by progressives for long defending Americans against predatory financial firms and students against insurmountable debt often contracted through deceptive private loans.

Chopra, currently a Democratic member of the Federal Trade Commission, is expected to start next week as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The agency will be the key to President Joe Biden’s administration as it attempts to address social inequalities highlighted by the pandemic.

While Biden appointed Chopra earlier this year, the US Senate, on which Democrats have a slim majority, was slow to confirm https://www.reuters.com/world/us/white-house-frustrated- by-slow- pace-senate-confirmations-nominees-2021-08-11 a number of agency heads due to Republican resistance.

Meanwhile, CFPB acting director Dave Uejio continued an aggressive agenda, cracking down on mortgage agents as Americans struggled during pandemic lockdowns. He also revoked Trump-era policies that had undermined the agency’s ability to punish companies for “abusive” behavior, while strengthening law enforcement against fintech companies.

In addition to continuing to advance these issues, Chopra should focus on exorbitant loan rates and abusive debt collection practices and tackle the student debt burden and gaps in minority access to credit.

The CFPB has been a political lightning rod since its inception after the global financial crisis of 2009. Democrats hail it as the keeper of ordinary Americans, but Republicans hate it as too powerful and irresponsible.

“The Trump administration has attempted to transform the CFPB into an agency more interested in protecting loan sharks and predatory lenders than hard-working consumers,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of Washington-based Public Citizen. “We welcome the return of an experienced consumer advocate to lead the agency and work on behalf of consumers.” (Report by Katanga Johnson in Washington, edited by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)


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