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Warren to Head Consumer Rights Bureau

By Zoe A. Y. Weinberg, Crimson Staff Writer

After months of speculation, Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren was appointed to lead the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection by President Obama last Friday.

To sidestep a heated confirmation battle, Warren was named as assistant to the President and special adviser to Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner.

The position will allow Warren to lay the foundation for the Bureau and its operations. There remains a possibility that Warren will be named permanent director in the future, and if not, she will “play a pivotal role” in picking a director and will help in making future decisions about the agency, according to Obama, who has known Warren since he was a student at the Law School,

She will also oversee all parts of the Bureau’s creation, including staff recruitment and designing policy initiatives, Obama added.

The treasury is charged with oversight of the Bureau until July 2011, when the Federal Reserve will assume control and a permanent director will be named.

“Secretary Geithner and I both agree that Elizabeth is the best person to stand this agency up,” Obama said in his announcement.

“Elizabeth understands what I strongly believe—that a strong, growing economy begins with a strong and thriving middle class. And that means every American has to get a fair shake in their financial dealings.”

Warren was first to conceive of the Bureau, which was signed into law in July 2010 as part of recent financial reform legislation.

Previously, Warren chaired the Congressional Oversight Panel, which was created in 2008 and charged with implementing the Troubled Asset Relief Program that supplied capital to Wall Street during the beginning of the recession.

Warren became a vocal champion of consumer protection rights in the wake of the financial crisis, and advocated the creation of an agency to oversee the regulation of financial products such as mortgages and credit cards.

“The new law creates a chance to put a tough cop on the beat and provide real accountability and oversight of the consumer credit market,” Warren said in a statement released by the White House.

“The time for hiding tricks and traps in the fine print is over,” she wrote.

Warren was slated to teach two classes at the Law School this fall. The announcement that she would not be teaching a contracts course fueled rumors that Warren would take the position in Washington. With her appointment, Warren will likely not teach her “Empirical Analysis of Law” course.

“There is no one as well equipped to advise the President and provide clear analysis and advocacy on consumer issues in this complex economy as Elizabeth Warren,” wrote Law School Dean Martha L. Minow in a press release, adding that “we will miss her fiercely.”

—Staff writer Zoe A. Y. Weinberg can be reached at zoe.weinberg@college.harvard.edu.

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