Verret in Washington Times: About-Face on Consumer Protection

Professor J.W. Verret believes that in the case of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a commission, rather than a single director, "would do a better job of protecting consumers by passing stronger rules less likely to be rescinded under one administration only to be renewed under the next."

"On a five-member commission, the staff within each office helps the commissioners debate ideas at an open meeting, but with a single director, the agency resembles more a palace of courtiers than a deliberative lawmaking body," says Verret. "A bipartisan commission allows open dialogue and lets dissenting members draw attention to a chairman of either party whose agenda strays to the extreme right or left."

"The executive branch was given one head to enforce the law. The framers, however, realized the importance of deliberation in lawmaking and legal interpretation, so they chose six members of the Supreme Court (now grown to nine) to interpret laws and a body that has grown to 535 seats in Congress to write laws," Verret explains. "The same logic argues in favor of multiple voices at the top of an agency that in practice both makes and interprets laws."

Verret points out that a bipartisan commission to lead the CFPB was called for in the president's initial plan, as well as in bills endorsed by a number of congressional Democrats.

About-face on consumer protection, The Washington Times, July 21, 2011. By J.W. Verret.

"The initial inspiration for the CFPB is found in an academic article written by Elizabeth Warren, the controversial figure whom the Obama administration originally hoped to appoint to lead the agency. She also apparently used to agree with the Republican proposal.

"The Democrats are being remarkably shortsighted. One day, the Republicans will be in power again and their nominee is likely to disagree with the decisions of previous Democratic CFPB directors. When that time comes, Democrats will learn to regret their rigidity on this issue but the real cost will be to the credit system in the form of bad rules that swing excessively left and right with each administration."