Why credit unions should work with CFPB, not against it

by: Cliff Rosenthal

One year ago, I left my job running the Office of Financial Empowerment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In my earlier two articles in this series, I described my departure from the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions after 32 years, and the culture shock I experienced — for better and for worse — in joining the CFPB. I did not leave the Bureau as any sort of protest, but rather to reunite the two halves of my life — my weekdays in Washington, DC, and my weekends at my real home in Brooklyn, New York, bridged by the 700 hours on Amtrak my wife and I had logged over nearly two years. Back here in Brooklyn, I have begun a third career of consulting and writing.

To paraphrase the classic Joni Mitchell song, I’ve looked at regulation from both sides now. I’m a credit union lifer; to this day, I’m advising groups on organizing credit unions. But I value and strongly support the CFPB in its current, though imperfect, form. So, I’m wrestling with this question: What would it take to better align the CFPB and the credit union movement?

We can agree that total alignment between the CFPB and the credit union movement is neither realistic nor attainable, even though both are on the consumer’s side. Tension between the regulator and the regulated is inevitable. But as long as it is a creative, constructive tension, it can produce better outcomes for all sides. I continue to believe that this is both desirable and possible.

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