US House Republicans push for contempt charges against CFPB director


WASHINGTON, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are pushing to hold Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray in contempt of Congress for refusing to respond sufficiently to congressional subpoenas.

A report released on Friday by Republican staff of the House Financial Services Committee argued there was "ample evidence" to hold Cordray in contempt because of his alleged failure to fully comply with subpoena requests. Republicans on the panel have been fiercely critical of the CFPB's regulatory work.

The report marked the most direct threat yet to pursue legal action against Cordray, who was appointed by Democratic former President Barack Obama after the agency was created under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray testifies before House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on "Allegations of Discrimination and Retaliation and the CFPB Management Culture" on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 30, 2014. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 29: Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew looks on as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray delivers remarks during a public meeting of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission at the United States Treasury on June 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. The agenda focused on financial education and investment advice, as well as the intersection of financial education and legal aid. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
Richard Cordray, Director of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, participates in an open meeting of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans at the Treasury Department in Washington, October 2, 2014. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS)
Newly appointed CFPB Chair Richard Cordray is sworn in before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 24, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a meeting with financial regulators to receive an update on their progress in implementing Wall Street at the White House in Washington March 7, 2016. Flanking Obama are U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen (L) and Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray (R). REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Richard Cordray (R) after announcing that he has appointed Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during a trip to Cleveland, Ohio January 4, 2012. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law to police the market for consumer products such as credit cards and mortgages. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS)
U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray (C) departs following a meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council at the Treasury Department in Washington October 6, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 28: Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is photographed in his Washington office, October 28, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 18: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray (L) speaks as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew (R) listens during a meeting of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission at the Treasury Department November 18, 2015 in Washington, DC. The FLEC held a meeting on 'how to prepare more Americans to plan and take action for long-term financial goals such as retirement.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 12: Richard Cordray (L) nominee for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Mary Jo White, nominee for chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, are sworn in before testifying at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on March 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. Cordray testified that he doesn't see a 'one-size-fits-all solution' to financial challenges and stressed the importance of transparency in the bureau's work. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)
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The subpoenas sought records tied to the CFPB's successful efforts to ban mandatory arbitration clauses from financial contracts, including communications between CFPB staff and meetings with outside groups.

The ban, hailed by consumer advocates, was finalized in July but Republicans in Congress are working to overturn it.

Republicans demanded the documents as part of a probe into rulemaking, and whether the rules regarding mandatory arbitration clauses were written in a proper fashion.

Mandatory arbitration clauses require consumers to resolve any disputes through arbitration instead of joining together in class-action lawsuits.

Republican staff on the House banking panel had suggested in June that Cordray could face contempt charges for insufficient responses to congressional queries, but Friday's report took the conflict to new heights.

A committee spokesman, Jeff Emerson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the panel would actually seek contempt charges.

In response to the report, CFPB spokeswoman Jen Howard said the agency had already produced "thousands of pages" in response to the requests and was endeavoring to do more.

"We will continue our efforts to understand how we can respond to the committee in a satisfactory manner," she said in a statement to Reuters.

In the past, Cordray has criticized similar panel subpoenas as overly broad and confusing.

Representative Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the committee, has been one of Cordray's outspoken critics, and demanded in the past that Republican President Donald Trump fire him as director.

Democrats have rallied behind Cordray and the agency since its creation.

"The Republican attacks on Director Cordray and the Consumer Bureau are entirely baseless, and there are no grounds at all for them to hold the Director in contempt," Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on Hensarling's panel, said in a statement to Reuters. (Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Tom Brown)

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