CFPB names familiar faces as its chief enforcers

CFPB names familiar faces as its chief enforcers
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has appointed two veteran regulators to lead enforcement and supervision, the latest indication that Director Rohit Chopra will heavily prioritize fair lending and racial equity issues.

The agency announced on Friday that Eric Halperin will be joining the agency as assistant director for the office of enforcement. Halperin is a familiar face for the mortgage industry – between 2010 and 2014 he served in leadership roles in the civil rights division of the Justice Department, first as special counsel for fair lending and later as acting deputy assistant attorney general, where he oversaw fair housing, fair lending, and employment enforcement programs. Halperin was most recently the CEO of Civil Rights Corp., a legal defense nonprofit. He also had a stint as director at the Center for Responsible Lending.

Chopra, who recently appeared in front of Congress, also appointed Lorelai Salas to serve as assistant director for supervision policy. Additionally, she’ll also be the acting assistant director for supervision examinations. Salas most recently served as New York City’s commissioner for the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, where she pursued corporations that allegedly preyed on low-income and immigrant consumers. In her final act as DCWP commissioner, Salas sued Chipotle for $150 million for its scheduling practices. Salas also worked at the New York State Attorney General’s Office in the litigation and labor bureaus. Obama nominated Salas to be the wage and hour administrator at the United State Labor Department.

“Lorelei Salas and Eric Halperin are both distinguished public servants with deep expertise in consumer protection,” Chopra said in a statement. “Together, they will be effective watchdogs over the financial marketplace, especially when it comes to stopping repeat offenders.”

The appointments follow the CFPB’s move to hire as many as 30 enforcement attorneys to its supervision, enforcement and fair lending division, which former CFPB staffers told HousingWire amounts to a 10% increase.

The supervision, enforcement and fair lending division is divided into four geographical regions, each with more than 100 examiners, a team of field managers, analysts, and administrative assistants.

Close watchers of the agency expect Chopra to seek larger settlements, as he did while at the Federal Trade Commission, in part because it more closely mirrors the tenure of former Director Richard Cordray. During Cordray’s reign, the CFPB charged companies more than $11 billion, extracting more than $9 billion over a two year stretch.  By comparison, in 2019 and 2020, under Kathy Kraninger, the CFPB carried out a comparable number of enforcement actions, but collected just $1.5 billion in penalties.

During his visit with Congress this week, lawmakers questioned the CFPB director on the postponement of the qualified mortgage rule and his priorities regarding enforcement. Top priorities are mortgage servicing, the monitoring of the mortgage market, and making sure “firms can’t dodge fair lending laws and anti-discrimination laws under the guise of their secret algorithm,” he said.

“I am very worried about black-box algorithms that have no accountability for how decisions are made,” Chopra told the House Financial Services Committee.

The appointments of Halperin and Salas represent the second major hiring announcement that Chopra has made in his first 20 days in office. Earlier in October, he appointed two former Obama-era CFPB officials and a longtime CFPB official with fair lending expertise to key leadership positions.

Zixta Martinez was named as the CFPB’s deputy director, and will oversee the operations division. Karen Andre, who will be associate director for consumer education and external affairs, was previously special assistant to the president for economic agency personnel. Erie Meyer, who will be the agency’s chief technologist, a new role, was a founding member of the CFPB’s office of technology and innovation. Jan Singelmann is also returning to the CFPB, this time as its chief of staff. From 2013 to 2019, Singelmann was the agency’s senior litigation counsel in its office of enforcement.
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