RICHARD CORDRAY AS A MEMBER OF THE UNTOUCHABLES? That's the way comedian JON STEWART sees him. H "You're like Eliot Ness," Stewart said on his Comedy Central show, The Daily Show, in a mid-January "interview" with Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). "I see it in you. I see the fire."
It's hard to say whether Stewart's people reached out to Cordray or Cordray's PR staff reached out to Stewart. But either way, when a regulator such as the CFPB's director makes it beyond C-SPAN--or even the real evening news--the agency has entered the public consciousness.
Cordray described the bureau's mandate as to "see that people are treated fairly in the marketplace." To which Stewart responded, "Good luck with that."
The CFPB director said there has been some resistance to his agency's rules under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, "but these are sensible changes taking it back to what [lenders] have done for decades" before they went brain dead, he said.
Stewart asked Cordray why it is that lending industry executives seem to skate when it comes to individual penalties. "Give us a cut, give us some dollars back" and everything will go away, is how the comedian joked that regulators deal with the financial industry.
But Cordray said the CFPB has the power to seek criminal charges and intends to use it.
In the "man bites dog" department, meanwhile, the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services is inviting ordinary citizens--that's you and me--to tell legislators how the consumer-protection bureau has impacted their lives. Business owners and their customers also are "invited" to participate.
But how the invitation is prefaced is the most interesting part of the offer: "Holding Washington accountable to hardworking taxpayers is a never-ending battle," Chairman JEB HENSARLING (R-Texas) said in a statement. "That's especially true when it comes to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection--the most powerful and least accountable government agency in all of Washington."
The invite also said participants could opt to have their stories made public or kept confidential.
"Since many citizens today justifiably fear reprisals when it comes to speaking their mind about Washington agencies--just witness the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] scandal--they can tell us if they don't want their story shared with anyone else," Hensarling said. "We will not share any story or personal information without...