CFPB director Richard Cordray resigns

Cordray was first to lead independent agency launched in 2011 as a response to the financial crisis

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Richard Cordray, the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), has resigned.

The Obama-era appointee, who drew ire from real estate industry leaders after the federal agency fined two brokerages and two mortgage lenders for what it called an “illegal kickback scheme,” was considered a target of Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump.

“I wanted to share with each of you directly what I have told the senior leadership in the past few days, which is that I expect to step down from my position here before the end of the month,” Cordray said in a message to employees, according to The Washington Post.

“As I have said many times, but feel just as much today as I ever have, it has been a joy of my life to have the opportunity to serve our country as the first director of the Consumer Bureau by working alongside all of you here,” Cordray added, according to the paper.

Cordray is expected to run for governor in Ohio, his home state, according to news reports.

Considered one of President Obama’s major achievements while in office, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched in 2011 as a response to the financial crisis two years earlier. Authorized by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the independent agency has jurisdiction over banks, credit unions, securities firms, mortgage servicing operations, foreclosure relief services and other financial companies.

In 2015 the bureau rolled out the landmark TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule, aka TRID, a set of rules designed to make the homebuying process easier for consumers to navigate. Though the regulation is said to have increased transparency around mortgages, real estate professionals have reported struggling to comply with the complex regulation. (The CFPB did clear up real estate pros’ biggest TRID headache in July when it updated its rules to make it easier for agents and brokers to access the Closing Disclosure, an important loan document.)

Shortly after his election, Trump took steps toward rolling back Dodd-Frank, directing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to review the agency’s authority over financial institutions.

“These regulations enshrine too-big-to-fail and encourage risky behavior,” Trump said in April before signing three orders that put the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in jeopardy.

In January, the agency leveled fines totaling $4 million against Oregon-based Keller Williams Mid-Willamette; Ventura, California-based Re/Max Gold Coast; Sherman Oaks, California-based Prospect Mortgage; and Connecticut-based mortgage services Planet Home Lending.

The charges, according to the CFPB, ranged from paying kickbacks for referrals of mortgage business to requiring consumers to prequalify for services even if they had already prequalified with another lender. In the case of Prospect Mortgage, the agency alleged the lender had agreements with more than 100 brokers, including Re/Max Gold Coast and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette, whose primary purpose was to deliver payments for referrals of new business.

“Under Prospect Mortgage’s new leadership team, the company has rebuilt its legal, regulatory and compliance practices,” a Prospect Mortgage official told Inman in February.

Upon Cordray’s announcement today, Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling, a vocal critic of Dodd-Frank, applauded the resignation, calling it a step forward in protecting consumers.

“We are long overdue for new leadership at the CFPB, a rogue agency that has done more to hurt consumers than help them,” said Hensarling, according to the Post. “The extreme overregulation it imposes on our economy leads to higher costs and less access to financial products and services, particularly for Americans with lower and middle incomes.”

In August, Zillow Group disclosed that it was heading into settlement discussions with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) because the federal agency alleged the company’s agent-lender co-marketing program had violated an anti-kickback provision of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and a part of the Consumer Financial Protection Act that prohibits anyone from helping financial service providers deceive consumers.

In Zillow Group’s third quarter earnings conference call, CFO Kathleen Philips told investors that Zillow Group and the CFPB “have not yet come to a mutually agreeable settlement.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

Email Jotham Sederstrom