January 9, 2012
Authored by: Bryan Cave
President Obama recently announced his recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the CFPB. This came despite the fact that the Senate held a series of “pro forma” sessions held over the congressional recess in an attempt to preclude a recess appointment. In response, the President dismissed the procedural requirements of a recess appointment, calling the pro forma sessions ‘gimmicks.’
Insiders have speculated some consequences of the recess appointment, including retaliation by Republicans in holding up the nominations of other agency heads. But more importantly, litigation is likely to stem from Cordray’s appointment, calling into question whether the specific requirements for a recess appointment were met. There is also the technical issue of whether the Dodd-Frank Act requirement of a “Senate-confirmed director” is met, which is key in establishing the CFPB’s authority over nonbanks. Despite Cordray’s appointment, it is unclear whether the bureau can legally exercise its full powers over nonbanks.