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NCUA Chair McWatters Shortlisted to Head CFPB
Wednesday, January 3, 2018 6:45 AM

J. Mark McWatters, chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, is on the shortlist to potentially head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to industry observers. The move could help soften the sharp partisan fight brewing for the person tapped to take over the consumer agency.

The choice of J. Mark McWatters as head of the CFPB "would be a smart pick because you get all of the conservative policymaking without the ideological rhetoric,” said one analyst.

Other names floated in recent weeks include Todd Zywicki, a law professor at George Mason University; Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) who chairs the House Financial Services Committee; and Keith Noreika, the former acting comptroller of the currency. McWatters' appointment would relieve interim director Mick Mulvaney, who followed the departure of former director Richard Cordray in November. Cordray resigned to run for governor of Ohio.

McWatters would potentially offer the administration a new way forward. He was confirmed to head the NCUA over the summer. While he previously solicited the CFPB to roll back oversight of credit unions in several cases, he has not openly criticized the consumer agency as others being considered have done.

McWatters could also theoretically take Mulvaney's place as acting chairman while he awaits confirmation, if the Trump administration wanted to make the switch. McWatters has already been confirmed by the Senate, making him eligible to serve as acting head of an agency under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

His nomination may draw opposition from banking groups, however, which are concerned with how close the NCUA is to the industry it regulates. Bankers frequently complain the agency is not tough enough on credit unions.

While at NCUA, McWatters asked the consumer agency in May to exempt credit unions from expanded data collection and reporting requirements issued under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and to clarify the agency’s authority to oversee unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts. In July, he requested the consumer agency drop examination and enforcement for the largest credit unions.

McWatters, a lawyer and certified public accountant, has years of experience in the public and private sectors. He previously served as a member of the Troubled Asset Relief Program’s congressional oversight panel and as an adviser to Hensarling.

He joined the NCUA board in 2014 under former President Obama, before being tapped as chairman of the agency in January under Trump. He served as acting chair from January through June, before being confirmed to the position by the Senate.

Before joining the NCUA, McWatters was assistant dean for graduate programs, a professor of practice at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, and an adjunct professor at the university’s Cox School of Business. He’s also been a partner at three international law firms and served as counsel to a hedge and private equity firm.

Source:  CU Journal