April 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s director defended himself in Congress on Wednesday against a barrage of Republican criticism over everything from the agency’s handling of the Wells Fargo accounts scandal to the way he has personally managed his job.
Appearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Richard Cordray, got coy when asked whether he would finish his term, which expires in July 2018. Republicans on the committee and elsewhere have pushed for President Trump to fire him, and Cordray is widely rumored to be a possible Ohio gubernatorial candidate in 2018.
Cordray, who has headed the agency since 2012 when he was appointed by former President Barack Obama, has declined to step down since President Donald Trump took office. He did not say whether he will serve out the rest of him term, which expires in July 2018.
“I have no insights to provide,” he said in response to a related question.
Under the Dodd-Frank law creating the agency, the president could only remove Cordray “for cause.” But longtime Republican critics say Cordray’s decisions as a regulator provide ample evidence to fire him.
“For all of the harm caused to consumers, Richard Cordray should be dismissed by the president,” said House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling.
Hensarling noted that the CFPB has failed to finalize regulatory projects mandated by Congress, such as writing rules directing financial institutions to collect data about credit applications by minority and women-owned businesses.
Republicans claimed the agency failed to detect wrongdoing at Wells Fargo & Co, relying on outside investigators and news reports to point out widespread problems with improper account creation.
“The CFPB was asleep at the wheel!” said Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican. The earliest the committee could determine the CFPB began to examine Wells Fargo was in May 2015, after the bank notified the regulator that the Los Angeles City Attorney was already pursuing a civil case, she said.
Yet the CFPB was front and center in September 2016 when the high-profile $185 million multi-agency settlement was announced.
Cordray said Wagner was “conflating” issues and said the oversight work “became exponential over time.”
The CFPB levied a $100 million fine against the bank in an enforcement action with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the City and County of Los Angeles. The probe began after a 2013 Los Angeles Times investigative story. (Reporting by Pete Schroeder; editing by Linda Stern and David Gregorio)