Warren Drops Class, Rumors Swirl

Last-minute news that Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren will not be teaching “Contracts” this fall is fueling speculation that the consumer rights advocate will be tapped to head the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

Because Warren continued to teach while actively working in Washington on financial regulatory reform in 2008 and 2009, the announcement sparked rumors in the media yesterday over whether the change indicates that she will lead the newly created federal financial watchdog group.

But Warren’s decision not to teach “Contracts” does not free her from all her teaching responsibilities. Warren is still scheduled to teach a seminar with Professor Lynn M. LoPucki entitled “Empirical Analysis of Law,” Law School spokesperson Robb London confirmed.

LoPucki said that students have enrolled in the seminar and that the class will meet next Tuesday.

“We all know that she’s up for a possible appointment,” LoPucki said. “I don’t know what the timing of an appointment is or if that would be a problem. Until there’s been an appointment, there’s nothing to deal with.”


LoPucki declined to comment on whether he had spoken with Warren regarding a potential appointment or if they had made contingency plans in the event she receives the position.

The Washington Post first reported that Warren would not be teaching “Contracts” after obtaining an e-mail from Law School Dean Martha L. Minow addressed to students in the course.

In that e-mail, Minow informed first year students in Warren’s section that she would be replaced by Gerald E. Frug, a veteran of the faculty.

“Professor Warren regrets that she will not be able to teach you this fall and we regret the last minute change, but I know you will have a wonderful semester with Professor Frug and your other Section 3 teachers,” Minow wrote to students Tuesday.

Warren’s students said they were not surprised to learn that she would not be teaching the course.

Since the start of the school year, rumors that Warren would scale back on classroom time had been swirling amid speculation that she could be named the head of the watchdog agency.

“I had seen her on The Daily Show a couple of times, and I really liked her and had heard good things about her in the classroom,” said Christian E. Pilhofer, a first year student who had been slated to take Warren’s contracts course.

Warren rose to prominence last year as a strong advocate for increased consumer protection in the market for financial products and as the chairwoman of the congressional panel that oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the politically unpopular fund that supported banks during the worst of the financial crisis.

After multiple appearances before panels and on television, Warren became a symbol for tough regulation of financial services.

Through her advocacy, she became a popular choice to lead the newly-minted Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, gaining the backing of the prominent Massachusetts House Democrat Barney Frank ’62, among other legislators.

“It is impossible to buy a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house,” she wrote as the housing bubble was reaching its peak. “But it is possible to refinance an existing home with a mortgage that has the same one-in-five chance of putting the family out on the street.”

Warren, through a spokesperson, declined to comment for this article.

—Staff writer Elias J. Groll can be reached at