White House considers CFPB's Raj Date, an Elizabeth Warren adviser, for top job

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The Washington Post
By Ylan Q. Mui & Zachary A. Goldfarb
June 8, 2011

The White House is considering naming a senior staffer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to lead the agency as the deadline for its launch draws near, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Raj Date joined the bureau in February as associate director of research, markets and regulations, overseeing its work on key issues such as credit cards and mortgages. He is one of the top lieutenants to Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor appointed by President Obama to set up the agency.

Warren has become a lightning rod for criticism from Republicans, and the White House hopes Date's decade of financial experience working with Capital One and Deustche Bank will make him a more palatable nominee, the person said. Bloomberg first reported the news.

In a statement, White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said that no decisions have been made and that the administration is still considering a number of candidates.

The White House has struggled to find the right candidate to run the consumer watchdog, a critical component of the financial regulatory overhaul Congress passed last summer. Warren is credited with coming up with the idea for the bureau, and she has been Democrats' top pick for the job. But the Senate must confirm any nominee, and Republicans have vowed to block any pick unless the agency's structure is changed.

Nominating Date could test that resolve. His financial credentials could fend off questions of whether someone such as Warren who has never worked in the industry could fairly regulate it. But Date also has a track record of consumer advocacy that should appease Democrats.

He left the banking industry in 2009 to start a nonprofit think tank devoted to promoting regulation of financial firms. He has criticized the big paychecks of Wall Street executives and supported the creation of the bureau, even calling on the White House to broaden its authority. "The fact is that most regulators are, recent experience would suggest, dreadful when it comes to consumer protection," Date wrote in 2009.

Date and Warren have worked closely together since he joined the staff, sometimes meeting twice a day, according to a copy of Warren's calendar posted online. Warren selected him for the position, citing his ability to keep the agency on "the cutting edge" of the financial industry.

Her prospects for the job remain uncertain.

Last week, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Obama signed by 89 House members who praised Warren as "the single best choice." They called for the White House to nominate her through a recess appointment that would allow her to temporarily serve in the job.

But Republicans have used the Senate's complex parliamentary procedures to prevent it from officially taking recess. The agency will not be able to use its new powers conferred under the financial regulatory legislation unless a director is in place by July 21.

Staff writer Brady Dennis contributed to this report.

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