Raise Questions About Consumer Czar Elizabeth Warren’s Congressional Testimony
Washington, DC — June 16, 2011
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has uncovered documents indicating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) headed by interim “Consumer Czar” Elizabeth Warren has been intensely involved in a 50-state settlement underway with the nation’s largest mortgage lenders related to alleged improper foreclosure procedures. The documents, obtained in response to open records requests with CFPB and the offices of attorneys general from all 50 states, seem to contradict Warren’s statements before Congress suggesting her office responded to requests for advice, but did not seek to push its views. Judicial Watch initiated its investigation into the controversies surrounding Ms. Warren and the CFPB on March 22, 2011.
During a March 16, 2011, hearing of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, Ms. Warren characterized her agency’s involvement in the state settlement negotiations: “We have been asked for advice by the Department of Justice, by the Secretary of the Treasury, and by other federal agencies. And when asked for advice, we have given our advice.” However, emails obtained by Judicial Watch from several states suggest her agency’s participation was far more intense and aggressive. Warren called emergency meetings by phone and in person with attorneys general nationwide to contribute unsolicited input on the matter. The documents also indicate that Warren’s office insisted on keeping its contact with the state attorneys general secret.
For example, in a February 25, 2011, email to the Executive Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), Iowa Assistant Attorney General Patrick Madigan wrote: “Elizabeth Warren would like to present the CFPB’s view on loan modifications.” And two weeks earlier, a similar email was distributed to NAAG’s Loss Mitigation Subgroup on Warren’s behalf. In an email on February 15 regarding that meeting, Madigan points out that “The CFPB wanted me to stress the confidential nature of this briefing.”
The March 22, 2011, FOIA request to the CFPB for all records of Warren’s communications with each state’s attorney general produced a single heavily-redacted document respecting a February 24 meeting with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
But state attorneys general nationwide have supplied dozens of documents to Judicial Watch showing contact between their offices and Warren’s, including emails establishing closed-door meetings between Warren and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on February 14 and March 7. Several states refused to turn over responsive documents in their possession based on confidentiality concerns arising from, as the State of Colorado put it, “the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s participation in the ongoing investigation into bank and loan servicers mortgage processes.”
The CFPB is a new federal agency arising out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. The new agency officially gains its authority under the law on July 21, 2011.
“The Consumer Financial Protection Board is being born in an atmosphere of secrecy and cover-up,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And the fact that the CFPB has been unwilling to abide by FOIA law certainly makes it appear the agency has something to hide from the American people. Given Warren’s radical tendencies and the fact that she was not subject to vetting by the U.S. Senate, we need absolute transparency from the CFPB, an agency which will give the federal government an unprecedented level of control of the private sector.”
Elizabeth Warren, an ardent “progressive,” was named by President Obama as the interim head of the CFPB to avoid the likelihood of her not being confirmed by the U.S. Senate because of her left-of-center views. For example, in a blog she authored on the mortgage lending industry, Warren wrote, “…big corporate interests, led by the consumer finance industry, are devouring families and spitting out the bones.”