January 31, 2012


WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) held an oversight hearing on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Committee heard from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray, and discussed the CFPB’s semi-annual report to Congress. The hearing was Mr. Cordray’s first appearance as CFPB director at a Senate hearing.
Below is Chairman Johnson’s statement as prepared for delivery:
“Good morning. I call this hearing to order.
“Before we begin, I would like to send my best wishes to Senator Mark Kirk for a speedy recovery. Senator Kirk is a valued member of this committee, and he is the ranking member of the MilCon/VA Subcommittee on Appropriations, which I chair.  I have no doubt that with his strong will and determination he will be back at work as soon as humanly possible. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, and I look forward to his return.
“Today marks the first Banking Committee hearing of the year. I am confident that we will have another productive year in the Committee as we build on the foundation set in the first session.
“Our Committee tackled an aggressive agenda last year, and I thank all of my colleagues for their contributions. In 2011, we held 72 public hearings and executive sessions, including 60 oversight hearings. Of those, 26 were subcommittee hearings, and I want to commend each of our subcommittee chairs and ranking members for their leadership. Additionally, we held over 70 bipartisan staff briefings.
“I am proud to say that we were successful at finding bipartisan consensus more than a few times. The Committee reported out favorably 26 nominations, with the full Senate confirming 17 of those nominees. We also unanimously approved two long-term reauthorizations – for the National Flood Insurance Program and for the charter of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
“Senator Shelby, I would specially like to thank you for working with me last year to plan bipartisan hearings to lay the foundation together for housing finance reform.
“I am hopeful that in 2012 we can continue to work across the aisle, and I am encouraged by the bipartisan markup scheduled for later this week. On Thursday, I expect this committee to approve bipartisan bills reauthorizing our national transit programs and increasing sanctions on Iran.
“Looking ahead to the rest of the year, my priorities will be to oversee implementation of Wall Street Reform, to continue building consensus on housing finance reform, to look out for the interests of rural and tribal areas and the smaller financial institutions that serve them, to strengthen national and international security, to act on the President’s nominees, and to pass critical program reauthorizations.
“The Committee will also continue to closely monitor the situation in Europe, as well as explore new issues, such as the development of mobile payments. In the coming weeks, we will take a closer look at the state of the housing market, examine some of the proposals for addressing housing stock surplus, and hear from the Federal Reserve on the upcoming monetary policy report.
“Based on the bipartisan successes we had last year, and the imperative to meet the continued economic challenges that face our country, I remain optimistic we will find common ground again this year.
“Let me now turn to an issue that we should all agree on – examining how well the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is fulfilling its mission.
“I would like to welcome Richard Cordray, the newly appointed Director of the Consumer Bureau, to the Committee to provide his testimony on the Bureau’s first semi-annual report to Congress.
“I would remind my colleagues that we are not here today to debate Mr. Cordray’s appointment. Our job is to roll up our sleeves and provide meaningful oversight of the Consumer Bureau to make sure that it is doing its job of protecting consumers and fostering an open and efficient consumer financial market place.
“The Wall Street Reform Act gave this Committee an important tool to help ensure that the Bureau is accountable to American consumers. By requiring the Director to report to and appear before this Committee at least two times a year, it is our job to help make sure that the agency is doing its job effectively and efficiently.
“So to my colleagues who don’t believe that the Consumer Bureau is accountable, I point out the simple fact that it is – and that is why we are here today.
“Mr. Cordray, I know that you share my strong commitment to oversight, accountability and transparency of the Consumer Bureau. In fact, this is the 13th time since Wall Street Reform became law that a Bureau employee has appeared before a committee of Congress. And, your agency’s outreach to stakeholders in your rulemaking process has been applauded across the board.  
“It has been six months since the Consumer Bureau officially opened for business, and only 4 weeks since it acquired all of its powers. Yet in that short time, Bureau employees have been hard at work. They have finalized a rule on consumer remittances and are currently reviewing comments on close to twenty other proposals. They have developed the “Know Before You Owe” programs, which are meant to simplify mortgage and credit card disclosures. They are developing a student loan worksheet to help students and their families shop for loans. They have also rolled-out supervisory and examination programs for large depository institutions and for non-depository institutions. Mr. Cordray, we look forward to hearing from you in greater detail about this ongoing work.
“And recently, you made comments about the CFPB’s role in reducing regulatory burden on small community banks and credit unions. This is an important issue to the consumers and institutions in my State of South Dakota. I am interested to hear more about the Bureau’s plans to ensure that in future rulemakings the right balance is struck between consistent protections for consumers and regulations for small institutions.
“Finally, I would like to hear about progress in two areas that the committee reviewed last fall – consumer protections for servicemembers and veterans and for Older Americans.
“Mr. Cordray, although you and the staff of the Consumer Bureau are faced with a difficult task, I have confidence that you are all up to the challenge. I look forward to your testimony and working with you to enhance our consumer financial markets.”