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Gibbs calls Warren 'terrific candidate' to run consumer protection agency

By Brady Dennis

Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren would be a "terrific candidate" to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the new financial overhaul bill, a White House spokesman said Monday.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also insisted that Warren, a well known consumer advocate and currently the head of the Congressional Oversight Panel, would be "very confirmable" by the Senate were President Obama to nominate her to the post. While some senators have questioned whether her nomination could succeed in the Senate, Gibbs said that "I don't think any criticism in any way by anybody would disqualify her."

The far-reaching legislation approved by Congress and signed by Obama last week establishes an independent consumer bureau within the Federal Reserve aimed at protecting borrowers from abuses in mortgages, credit cards and other loans. The new watchdog, a cornerstone of the administration's plan to rewrite current financial regulations, will have autonomy to write and enforce its own rules, a dedicated source of funding and a presidentially appointed director.

The new regulator's first leader will have broad authority to shape the bureau and to set the tone for how aggressively it works to protect ordinary consumers, a task that a collection of existing regulators often neglected in the run-up to the financial crisis. The director also will hold a seat on the board of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and would serve as a member of the Financial Services Oversight Council, a group charged with monitoring potential threats to the financial system.

Consumer advocates and liberal lawmakers have lobbied hard for Warren to get the job, arguing she's the most qualified candidate to lead the agency, which itself originated from a paper she wrote in 2007. But many in the banking industry and some more conservative lawmakers fear that in her zeal to look out for consumers, she might cause harm to financial firms and limit access to credit for the very families she intends to help. 
Over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner also praised Warren, even as he stopped short of explicitly endorsing her for the job. 

"She is a enormously effective advocate for reform, probably the most effective advocate for reform for consumers -- for consumer protection in the country," Geithner said on ABC's "This Week." "She has huge credibility and she played a decisive role in helping make the public case for reform ... So she has enormous credibility and she'd be an excellent leader of that institution. But that's a decision the president's going to make."

Other candidates widely considered as finalists for the post include assistant Michael S. Barr, an assistant Treasury secretary, and Eugene Kimmelman, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Antitrust Division.

By Mike Shepard  |  July 26, 2010; 7:47 PM ET
 
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