Daily Archives: August 8, 2010


By L. Randall Wray

Outgoing Senator Dodd just weighed in on the possibility that Elizabeth Warren might get the top spot heading the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection at the Federal Reserve:

“What you don’t need to have is an eight-month battle for who the director or the head or chairperson of this new consumer financial protection bureau will be,” Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff,” to be broadcast today.
Let us get this straight. Dodd has been a shill for Wall Street for years. He has never seen a fight against Wall Street worth fighting. He is retiring. Why would anyone care what he thinks about Warren?

Let us get this straight. Warren created the proposal to create a consumer financial protection act and agency to enforce it. She has been the driving force behind it. No one is better qualified to lead it. Any other appointment would confirm that the Obama administration is not serious about reform.

Dodd is pushing Sheila Bair, head of the FDIC. She is a fine person. She says she does not want the job. I haven’t met her, but she is no Elizabeth Warren.

We know that Dodd does not take consumer protection seriously. He has been in the back pocket of rapacious lenders so long that his views have no credibility. He is the problem, not the solution. That is why he is leaving “public service”. He knows he has no chance to win an election in the aftermath of a crisis he helped to create.
Warren, by contrast, has been a tireless defender of consumers. She knows all the “tricks and traps” that credit card issuers put into the complex contracts that—literally—no law school grad could wade through. She forcefully argues that it makes no sense that we protect consumers from faulty toasters but let Wall Street steal their home and their life savings. She knows that Wall Street bought and paid for the 2005 Bankruptcy “Reform” Act written by the credit industry to screw the last dime out of overburdened homeowners—exactly on the cusp of the collapse. She knows that states (with the help of the Supreme Court) have raised the maximum permitted interest rate from a “measly” 36% in 1965 to a median of 398% in 2007. Yes, read that again—it is not a mistake, it is a disgrace.
Warren knows that financial products are only subject to contract law—based on the notion that both parties are fully informed. And are “equals” in the contract. Yep, right—you, dear reader, are equal to the team of vampire blood sucking squids at Goldman Sachs dead set on taking away your home. What, you do not have a good corporate lawyer looking over your mortgage contract? Sucker!
Other consumer products are subject to tort law—you can sue manufacturers for injury. Imagine if you bought a lawn tractor, with 37 pages of disclaimers, and buried deep inside in incomprehensible language the contract said that due to shoddy manufacturing practices, the blade is liable to occasionally fly off and take off your leg, but if it does that, we are not liable. That is exactly what your credit card contract says.
It ain’t right. Warren knows that. She wants to protect consumers of financial products—which, arguably are far more important today than are toasters that occasionally short and burn your toast.
If you are not convinced that she is the right person for the job, please read her excellent essay: “Redesigning regulation: a case study from the consumer market”, in Government and Markets, toward a new theory of regulation, edited by Edward Balleisen and David Moss, Cambridge University Press, 2010, based on a paper she gave back in 2008.