The head of the new consumer financial protection bureau will be one of the most important figures in the financial world. This has led to serious speculation over who President Obama might name; concern over who will lead the CFPB even led Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) to temporarily withdraw his vote for the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform bill, which will be signed into law next week.
The most obvious candidate is Elizabeth Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School and the head of the Congressional Oversight Panel over the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Treasury Department’s signature effort to stem the financial crisis. She devoted her career to studying how the modern financial system ends up giving families and workers bum deals. The idea for the CFPB is hers. She is, bar none, considered the foremost mind on the topic. As the head of the CFPB, many in Washington hoped, she would act not just as a strong leader, but as a draw for smart minds — a kind of J. Edgar Hoover, sexing up the bureau rather than letting it become just another wan regulatory agency. This might sound a bit strong. But I am serious in saying that most everyone I speak with about this issue — on the Hill, in consumer groups, in think tanks — considers Elizabeth Warren just that good.
Except, Shahien Nasiripour reports at the Huffington Post, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Why? Because she has been hard on Treasury’s reform efforts. I would not be surprised to hear push-back from Treasury on the story, but it has been in the air for some time that the department opposes her. The question, of course, is how much Treasury’s opinion will influence the White House.