Cordray: From AG to DCWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Cordray says he sees his new job in Washington, D.C., as an opportunity to do for the whole country what he was trying to do for the state of Ohio.
Cordray was unsuccessful in his November re-election bid as Ohio’s attorney general. He was elected in 2006 as Ohio’s treasurer, then was elected in 2008 to finish the term of attorney general. Before that, the 51-year-old Democrat was treasurer of Franklin County, first solicitor general in the Ohio attorney general’s office, a state representative and an undefeated five-time champion on the “Jeopardy!” television program.
On Dec. 15, it was reported that Cordray would be head of the enforcement division for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) implementation team.
Cordray spoke with Toledo Free Press from Columbus on Dec. 17. About the new position, he said, “I’m going to have the opportunity to work with Elizabeth Warren, with a team that is setting up the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which is a brand-new agency under the Dodd-Frank Financial Regulatory Reform bill.”
The agency will address all of the household financial products that matter in people’s lives, Cordray said.
“Mortgages, credit cards, debit cards, student loans, payday loans, debt collection, credit reports, you name it. And our goal is to achieve greater transparency, comparability, fair treatment of consumers, and a system of household financial products that works for Americans and the economy and for the banks as well,” he said.
Cordray’s previous campaigns had referenced the topic of ethics. In 2006 when running for Ohio treasurer, he said candidates are better off if they keep their investments more general, using money market funds instead of picking stocks, to avoid questions concerning inside information and possible concerns about corruption.
When asked how he felt about transparency given the recent comment made by Governor-elect John Kasich where Kasich blamed reporters for the attention to transparency and conflicts of interest, Cordray said his position had not changed.
“Conflicts of interest should not be dictating choices in government, and transparency is important because the public is ultimately the boss of government. They have to be able to know what is going on in order to exercise their role as the boss,” Cordray said.
Transparency is an important factor in Cordray’s new position.
“It’s about people making choices, where they’re not confused by gobbledygook and that the terms are clear and they can make sensible choices for themselves and not get caught up in financial products that are going to undermine their financial well being because of the way the fees and other things are folded in there in ways the consumer does not understand them,” he said.
It was reported on Dec. 15 that Ohio will receive more than $861,000 through the settlement of a multistate lawsuit on claims The Dannon Co. made for its Activia yogurt and DanActive dairy drink. Cordray as attorney general, sought to have Ohio included in the lawsuit with 38 other states.
Cordray said cases like the Dannon lawsuit were “part of the reason why this is such a great opportunity, because we will be doing a lot of the same work, especially with respect to mortgages and credit cards for the whole country, that I was trying to do in the state of Ohio.”
Cordray’s new position will not require him to move his family to the D.C. area.
“I’m going to be commuting, they were pretty flexible about the arrangement. I will go out to D.C. and be there much of the workweek and then do some work in Ohio as well,” he said.
Keeping his Ohio residency is important for more than just family reasons, Cordray’s name is already being mentioned for the 2014 elections. It may not be a return run for the attorney general’s office — it could be governor.
Until then, he said his focus will be on making sure consumers are treated fairly and that people have information accessible to them to make good financial choices.
Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog GlassCityJungle.com.