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'Unaccountable Bureaucracy' Wins High Marks From Public

The biggest sins of the agency in the view of critics are that it's run by a director, not a commission, and that it doesn't have to rely on Congress to authorize its budget as the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission do. The CFPB gets its funding from the Federal Reserve, which doesn't rely on Congressional appropriations either.

Unaccountable or not, consumers so far have been getting a good deal. The agency has taken actions that will return $3 billion to consumers, Cordray testified last month. Separate from its enforcement actions, the public has filed more than 270,000 complaints with the CFPB since March 2013, posing such a threat to ne'er-do-wells that financial institutions have begun scrambling to address complaints before customers feel the need to ask for regulatory help.

Apart from the obvious fact that the regulated would rather make a customer happy than get entangled in an official complaint, there is also a public relations issue: The CFPB names names when a complaint is filed, and it takes only three clicks from the home page to see a spreadsheet of all 270,000 alleged offenders.

Americans for Financial Reform commissioned a poll last summer to see what the public's impression was of the agency. Forty-nine percent strongly favored the CFPB, 31% "somewhat favored" it and only 13% said they opposed having an agency for consumers.

"Eventually, the legislators who have acted this way are going to realize how wildly out of touch they are with their own constituents," said Lardner. "They're running the risk of being seen as pawns of Wall Street and slippery lenders."

They also run the risk of engaging in so much melodrama that even their good ideas are dismissed. The CFPB should indeed be held accountable for safeguarding all that consumer information. But who can hear the constructive criticism amid the hysterical cacophony of the agency's haters?

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Susan Antilla is an award-winning writer and author of Tales From the Boom-Boom Room: The Landmark Legal Battles that Exposed Wall Street's Shocking Culture of Sexual Harassment.

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