Book Published on the CFPB From Birth to 2015

The book is Meltdown: The Financial Crisis, Consumer Protection, and the Road Forward (Praeger 2017), by research economist Larry Kirsch and sociologist Greg Squires (George Washington University Sociology Department). Here's an abstract:

Meltdown is the first book length account of the CFPB from its inception through 2015. With a foreword based on an interview with Elizabeth Warren and an afterword contributed by Michael Barr, Meltdown could hardly be a more timely read for all the doers and viewers immersed in the current political/legal threats to the Bureau. The book is written for both subject matter specialists (academics and practitioners) and general public affairs readers; its brisk narrative style plus detailed endnotes make it accessible and very useful for scholarship.

Meltdown is based on extensive in-depth interviews with more than 50 current CFPB staffers (at various levels and places throughout the agency, including Director Cordray); Bureau alumni including some of the pioneers; and a host of key stakeholders from industry, the consumer and fair-lending advocacy communities, the press, academia, and the Hill.

Among its major contributions, Meltdown profiles some of the key early players inside and out of the Bureau (including Director Cordray, Raj Date, Michael Barr, and Mike Calhoun) and offers diverse perspectives relating to the origins and early days of the CFPB from the stand-up (2010) through 2015. It features detailed case studies of the CFPB’s auto lending and mortgage origination initiatives as vehicles for probing and making preliminary observations about some of the fundamental conflicts the Bureau was called on to balance and resolve. Among them were striking the right balance between consumer protection and the risk of reduced credit access, finding ways of adapting to changing market conditions, bringing about maximum voluntary compliance among regulated lenders without sacrificing the agency’s firm objectives, making subtle judgments about how hard to push while standing right on the nebulous border of regulatory overreach, and finding ways to get industry to invest in structural changes in their consumer lending practices (to promote safety and fairness) when the benefits—from the industry perspective—seem tenuous though the costs are in plain sight.


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