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Trump May Tap Consumer Watchdog's Biggest Opponent to Run It

Jan 13, 2017

When President-Elect Donald Trump assumes control of the Oval Office next week, he's likely to whip out his old “you’re fired” catchphrase.

Trump is expected to almost immediately dismiss Richard Cordray, who has been the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) since its creation in 2011. According to the Huffington Post, the man most likely to replace Cordray is former Texas Congressman Randy Neugebauer, who was seen meeting with Trump at his New York headquarters in Trump Tower this week.

The CFPB was launched with the mission of safeguarding consumers against predatory financial institutions. Over the years, the bureau has launched initiatives to stop debt collectors from harassing people and to help Americans avoid unnecessary bank fees, among other campaigns.

For supporters of the CFPB, Trump's possible choice for its new director is beyond alarming. Why? Because, similarly to the way that Trump has chosen an anti-vaccine crusader to lead a commission on (yep) vaccines, Neugebauer has been one of the CFPB's most outspoken opponents.

Neugebauer at CFPB would be like letting the crazed arsonist guard the henhouse. https://t.co/so7jZIDfyx

— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) January 12, 2017

In the past, Neugebauer has come out strongly against the CFPB, criticizing several key rules concerning payday lenders and mandatory arbitration. The former lawmaker even introduced legislation in May 2015 that would completely change the CFPB structure, removing power from the director and handing it over to a commission, thereby restricting its ability to independently craft regulations.

"Consumer protection is important to a well-functioning financial marketplace," Neugebauer wrote in one of his arguments for a new CFPB structure. But "this protection must be balanced and politically-neutral. Regulations must be smart and tailored to preserve consumers’ product choice and credit availability."

Among the product choices Neugebauer wants to keep available are many payday lending options that the CFPB has tried to outlaw. Neugebauer's support of the payday loan operators resulted in an ethics complaint in 2015, after it came to light he and other lawmakers received campaign contributions from the industry before attacking the CFPB.

Understandably, consumer advocates are slamming the potential choice of Neugebauer to lead the watchdog agency he seems to have been trying to destroy. “He is a complete hack for the industry on pretty much every issue,” Paul Bland, the executive director of Public Justice, told MONEY on Friday.

“You would go from an extremely strong consumer advocate to someone who is always on the side of the industry against the consumers,” Bland added.

While Richard Cordray’s term extends until 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently issued a decision giving the president the authority to remove the director of the CFPB at will, rather than having to wait “for cause,” as was the case before.

The CFPB has asked for a review of the decision by the entire appeals bench, so the case is still pending—making Trump’s potential decision to fire Cordray a gray area.

“[Firing Cordray] would be a devastating move that would undermine the CFPB enormously—and it would be a complete betrayal of the President-Elect’s promises to voters on the campaign trail,” Bland says.

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