President Obama Speaks at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Richard Cordray:
Well, I’m Richard Cordray, the
new Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The President:
Yay! Richard Cordray:
And I — (cheers and applause) I am very pleased to have the
President of the United States here with us today. This is a very important
week for all of us. It’s a very important
week for the bureau. It’s a very important
week for the country. The President is someone who
understands the important role consumer finance plays in
the lives of every American. Consumer financial products and
services can help each of us achieve our dreams, but when
risks are not clear and fees are hidden, they can make
our lives much harder. We saw that just the other
day when we visited an elderly couple, the Easons in Cleveland,
Ohio and heard their personal story about predatory
lending firsthand, predatory lending that almost
cost them their precious home of many years. Because the President
understands this, going all the way back to his
days of community organizing helping working class families
cope with their struggles on the streets and in the
neighborhoods of Chicago, he has been a strong supporter
of rules of the road that make the consumer financial system
safer for all Americans. We are now an independent
federal agency. We are responsible by law to
act in the public interest to protect American consumers
in the financial marketplace. To do our job well, we will be
reaching out and working with public officials from both sides
of the aisle and from every part of this country, including
not only the President, but senators, representatives,
federal officials, and state and local leaders who
want to work with us as we stand up for consumers. We are proud of the
work that you all do, and we wanted the President
to see it firsthand. So it is my pleasure to
introduce to all of you and to welcome to the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau the President of the United States. (cheers and applause) The President:
Thank you, everybody. Thank you. (applause) Good to see you. (applause) Good to see you. Thank you. Thank you. Well, it is wonderful
to see all of you. I thought I would just drop by to
help your new director move in. (laughter) He’s been a little busy. So I thought maybe some
boxes, a little plant. (laughter) I also just wanted to say hello
to all of you who have just been doing extraordinary work in
standing up what I think is going to be one of the most
important agencies for people that there is. And I know that all of you have
devoted enormous amounts of time and energy, and many of you
are here making significant sacrifices with your families
to make sure that this agency gets up and running really well. And so I just wanted to say
thank you to all of you. Let me begin by saying a
few words about the latest economic news. This morning, we learned
that American businesses added another 212,000
jobs last month. Altogether, more private sector
jobs were created in 2011 than any year since 2005. And there are a lot of
people that are still — (applause) — there are a lot of
people that are still hurting out there. After losing more than 8
million jobs in the recession, obviously we have a
lot more work to do. But it is important for the
American people to recognize that we’ve now added 3.2 million
new private sector jobs over the last 22 months — nearly 2
million jobs last year alone. So after shedding jobs
for more than a decade, our manufacturing sector is
also adding jobs two years in a row now. So we’re making progress. We’re moving in the
right direction. And one of the reasons
for this is the tax cut for working Americans that
we put in place last year. And when Congress returns, they
should extend the middle-class tax cut for all of this year,
to make sure that we keep this recovery going. It’s the right thing to do. There should not be delay. There should not
be a lot of drama. We should get it done. And the American people I think
rightly understand that there are still a lot of struggles
that people are going through out there. A lot of families are
still having a tough time. A lot of small businesses are
still having a tough time. But we’re starting to rebound. We’re moving in the
right direction. We have made real progress. Now is not the time to stop. So I would urge Congress to make
sure that they stay on top of their jobs to make sure that
everybody else is able to enjoy hopefully an even more
robust recovery in 2012. So the economy is moving
in the right direction. We’re creating jobs
on a consistent basis. We’re not going to let up —
not until everybody who wants to find a good job can find one. But we have a responsibility
to do even more than just try to recover from this devastating
recession and financial crisis. We have a responsibility to make
sure that the economy that we’re rebuilding is one where
middle-class families feel like they can get ahead again. A lot of the problems that we’re
dealing with are problems that existed even before the recession,
even before the financial crisis. For a decade or more,
middle-class families felt like they
were treading water, that they were losing ground. And what we want to do is make
sure not just that we’re getting back to the status quo, we want
to make sure that we’re dealing with those underlining problems
— getting to a point where middle-class families feel
like they can get ahead again. Where hard work pays off again. Where everybody gets a
fair shot, and everybody does their fair share,
and everybody is playing by the same set of rules. And that’s where
all of you come in. Every one of you here has a
critical role to play in making sure that everybody
plays by the same rules. To make sure that the big banks
on Wall Street play by the same rules as community
banks on Main Street. To make sure that the rules
of the road are enforced, and that a few bad actors in the
financial sector can’t break the law, can’t cheat working
families, can’t threaten our entire economy
all over again. That’s your mission — to make
sure that the American people have somebody in their corner. That American consumer have
somebody who’s got their back. And you finally got a great
director who was tailor made to lead this agency
in Richard Cordray. (applause) You’ve also got an extraordinary
team that is lined up behind me here, who did a great job in
getting this agency up and running, and are going to
continue to show extraordinary leadership in all the
various issues that you’re going to be addressing. And I also want to give a
special shout-out to the woman who dreamt up this agency
and spent so much time turning it into a reality — our
friend, Elizabeth Warren. (applause) Just to be a little more
specific, millions of working Americans use financial products
like credit cards and student loans and mortgages —
and that’s a good thing. These products have a tremendous
potential to make people’s lives better — to buy products,
to earn an education, to afford a home,
to raise a family. And we all use them. But when they’re sold in an
irresponsible fashion they can also make life brutally
hard on people. They can turn the dreams of
a family into a nightmare. Things like hidden fees and
traps on credit cards and student loans cost working
American billions of dollars. Things like subprime loans and
skyrocketing interest that you can’t escape cannot only bring
families to their knees but the entire economy to its knees. And Richard just mentioned the
example of this elderly couple that we met when we
were in Ohio yesterday. These are folks — the
gentleman was a Marine who served in Korea. They had been
married for 42 years. He had worked all his life;
they had poured their savings into this home. Because of a code
violation — obviously, they’re on a fixed income. They don’t have a lot of money. They thought, well, maybe
we can get a loan to make some modest repairs. And what initially was promised
as an $8,000 line of credit to make these repairs ended up
being an $80,000 debt with no repairs that threatened
them going into foreclosure. And those kinds of stories
are replicated all across the country. And it not only hurts
those individuals, it hurts the entire economy. That shouldn’t happen,
not in America. And that’s why we’re here. We’re here to put an end
to stories like these. And already, your work
is making a difference. The “Know Before You Owe”
campaign you’ve been working on for months is
doing three big things. It’s making home loan
applications more transparent, so that families will know what
they owe on their mortgages. It’s making it easier for
students to compare financial aid packages and know what
they owe each month when they graduate. I could have used that. (laughter) It’s making — in fact, I’ve
got a law school classmate here who — she probably went
through the same thing I did. (laughter) It’s making credit card
agreements shorter and simpler, so that credit card holders will
know what they owe and what they’re getting into. And I know that folks all across
America have been sending in their stories to help shape
these new initiatives. This is not something
where it’s just a Washington top-down process. You are gathering the
experiences of individual families, seeing how they
got hurt, how they might have gotten cheated. And that’s helping to define
how you enforce these rules. And that’s vitally important. And now that Richard
is your director, you can finally exercise the
full power that this agency has been given to protect
consumers under the law. Now that he’s here,
irresponsible debt collectors and payday lenders
and independent mortgage servicers and loan providers,
they’re all bound by the same rules as everybody else. No longer are consumers left
alone to face the risk of unfair or deceptive or abusive
practices — not anymore. So we can make sure that folks
don’t lose their homes or their life savings just because
somebody saw them as an easy target. We can make sure that students
don’t start out in life saddled with debt that they can
never pay back just because of a lousy deal. We can safeguard families and
seniors and veterans from toxic financial products. We can help give everybody
the clear and transparent information that they need
to make informed financial decisions and have companies
compete for their business in an open and honest way. That’s Richard’s commitment. That’s my commitment. That’s the commitment
of everybody standing on this stage. And that’s your commitment. That’s why this agency
is so important. So I want to thank all of
you for choosing to serve your country in these
challenging times. Your mission is
extraordinarily important. It’s vital to the
strength of our economy. It’s really important to the
security of working families. And I know that it might be
personal for some of you. You may know a friend or a
family member whose life was turned upside down because of
some of these unsavory practices that this agency is
designed to root out, and maybe you were then
determined to prevent that from happening to somebody else. Now you can. And we’re not going to let
those folks down all across the country. When I meet Americans all across
the country or I read letters that I get every night, they
really don’t ask for much; they’re not looking for a
handout, they’re not looking for special treatment. They just want a fair shake;
they just want a fair deal. And we have a chance
to give it to them. So let’s do everything
that we can to make sure that middle-class families can
regain some of the security that they’ve lost over
the last decade. Let’s help to protect what
they’ve worked so hard for, and give them the chance to
hand it down to their kids. I know you guys are
ready to go to work. I am too. I couldn’t be prouder of you. So congratulations. (applause)

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