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Biden expected to pick FTC member Chopra to head consumer financial regulator

·3 min read
U.S. President-elect Biden holds news conference in Wilmington, Delaware

By Trevor Hunnicutt and David Lawder

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Federal Trade Commission (FTC) member Rohit Chopra to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to two people familiar with the new administration's plans.

Chopra, whose consumer advocacy views align with Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, had been considered a top candidate for the job running the agency created after the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

A spokeswoman for Biden's transition office did not respond to a request for comment.

The CFPB, championed by Warren, has been beloved by Democrats as a watchdog to help level the financial playing field for middle-class Americans but reviled by Republicans as too powerful and unaccountable. Millions of Americans who lost jobs and income due to the coronavirus pandemic are turning to help from the financial institutions the CFPB seeks to regulate.

The Trump administration, which ends on Wednesday, weakened the agency's enforcement powers and won a Supreme Court ruling to allow the president discretionary authority to fire its director.

That could backfire now. Chopra's expected nomination suggests that Biden intends to fire current CFPB director Kathy Kraninger, a Trump appointee whose term officially ends in 2023.

Chopra helped Warren set up the CFPB and served as the agency's first student loan ombudsman. Progressives have sought to return it to a tougher stance, reversing Trump's rules on payday lending and debt collection agencies as well as scrapping proposals that could prevent low-income Americans from getting mortgages.

Other liberal priorities include stamping out exorbitant lending rates, addressing the student debt burden and gaps in minorities' access to credit as well as overhauling the credit reporting system. As a presidential candidate, Biden proposed letting the CFPB offer its own credit ratings for consumers.

"Rohit has a proven record of challenging corporate abuse on behalf of everyday families who don't want to be cheated," said the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal advocacy group that had promoted Chopra, on Twitter.

Chopra's appointment would take a key advocate for strong regulation of big technology companies off of the FTC.

Chopra backed a lawsuit last month by that agency that accused Facebook Inc of using a "buy or bury" strategy with competitors that may force the company to sell off WhatsApp and Instagram.

In 2019, he voted against a $5 billion fine against Facebook for privacy failures, saying https://twitter.com/chopraftc/status/1154010756079390720?lang=en that while it "sounds like a lot," the settlement did not go far enough to prevent repeated abuses. He has also pressed social media companies for more information on how they use personal data and warned https://www.reuters.com/article/tech-antitrust/ftc-official-says-data-collection-allows-big-tech-to-hurt-competition-idUKL3N27243H?edition-redirect=in lawmakers that consumer data posed a threat to competition.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and David Lawder; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Robert Birsel)