July 13, 2024

An Agency Builder, but Not Yet Its Leader

She claims not to care. Ms. Warren, who pushed for the creation of the bureau, has waged a tireless campaign on its behalf. In doing so, she may have helped her own prospects for getting the job.

In nine months overseeing the bureau’s start-up, she has talked with community bankers in every state, conferred with about 70 members of Congress, conducted dozens of media interviews and met with more than 1,000 banking, business and consumer representatives. Preparing for the agency’s July 21 opening, she supervised the hiring of more than 300 people.

To nervous lenders, her message has been as simple and unadorned as her personal style: a new regulator to protect consumers from abusive financial products does not have to punish banks to do its job.

That message has won her grudging respect in banking circles. Daryll Lund, president of the Community Bankers of Wisconsin, expressed “cautious optimism” about both her and the bureau. “The things she is advocating for are things we support,” he said.

But it remains unclear whether she has changed enough minds. Senate Republicans want to replace the job of director with a commission and reorganize the agency before they will consider any nominee for confirmation.

Only President Obama can decide if Ms. Warren is his choice for director, and for months he has said nothing about it. Mr. Obama has said he has great respect for Ms. Warren and her advocacy for consumers, but he has appeared unwilling to wage a battle with the Senate to actually nominate her to direct the new bureau.

Instead, the administration and Democratic Party officials have floated stories suggesting that Ms. Warren might run for the United States Senate in Massachusetts, where she teaches law at Harvard. Another trial balloon raised the possibility that the president would nominate one of Ms. Warren’s deputies.

People outside the agency who speak often with Ms. Warren say they believe she still wants the job. Ms. Warren declined to be interviewed on the record about the issue. In a statement issued through a spokeswoman, she said: “What matters to me is having a strong consumer agency that works for American families.”

Consumer advocates have orchestrated support for her. Other potential nominees have backed away from the job in deference to Ms. Warren. Congressional Democrats have urged Mr. Obama to appoint her while Congress is in recess, something her opponents on Capitol Hill are determined to block.

But with no clear signal as to who will run the bureau, many bankers are now worrying that the opposition to Ms. Warren may produce a leaderless consumer bureau.

Without a director, the agency cannot regulate nonbank financial companies, including payday lenders, mortgage companies and consumer credit agencies. Those businesses compete directly with local banks, and bankers do not like the idea that their institutions will be regulated by the bureau while their chief competitors will not.

“Frankly, I’m flabbergasted as to why the administration has not nominated somebody to head up this very important agency that they created,” said Richard Hunt, president of the Consumer Bankers Association.

Mr. Obama “is considering a number of candidates for the position of director, but no decisions have been made, and we will not comment on speculation about potential candidates before the president nominates someone,” said Amy Brundage, a White House spokeswoman. She added that the president would also oppose any proposals “that weaken the agency and hurt American consumers.”

Administration officials point out that if Ms. Warren had been nominated as the director last September instead of being appointed as an assistant to the president and a special adviser to the Treasury secretary, she could not have worked on the bureau’s start-up until she was confirmed by the Senate — which looked unlikely last year.

That would have left the person who came up with the idea for the bureau unable to talk about it for months.

Ms. Warren, a driven, sometimes blunt 62-year-old grandmother, made her way from Norman, Okla., to a professorship at Harvard Law School. She arrived in Washington three years ago to head a Congressional panel overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700 billion aid package for banks. She quickly won applause for her aggressive questioning of the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, and other officials.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=8855dfe662aca56b58cb251a9470519c

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