January 31, 2020

CFPB Announces Selection of Enforcement Director

2 min

The CFPB has named Thomas Ward to lead the enforcement division as the Assistant Director for Enforcement. Mr. Ward, a Justice Department appointee, is currently employed as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General overseeing the Torts Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice. Prior to his 2017 DOJ appointment, Mr. Ward was a partner at a DC law firm, where he focused his practice on tort litigation (the CFPB press release also notes that Mr. Ward worked on financial and securities litigation and investigations). According to the CFPB's press release, Mr. Ward clerked for the Honorable Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and earned his law degree from Columbia Law School in New York City.

It has been reported that in a letter to House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger described Mr. Ward as "eminently qualified" to lead the enforcement division and recognized his "wealth of experience as both a litigator of complex cases and a manager of other attorneys." Director Kraninger explained the selection process as following the Bureau's standard executive hiring and recruitment procedures, which include a "comprehensive rating, ranking, assessment and structured interview process." She also summarized the approval by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) of the promotion of a presidential appointee to a career civil service position, noting that OPM determined that the selection was "'free from political influence and complies with applicable civil service laws and regulations.'"

Director Kraninger's letter is likely in response to statements made by Chairwoman Waters, who had previously raised concerns over Mr. Ward's potential selection as assistant director. In a December letter to Director Kraninger, chairwoman Waters reiterated OPM guidance, which states that political appointees should not receive any preference or special advantage and that the agencies should seek written approval from OPM prior to appointing a current political appointee to a nonpolitical excepted service position (career positions). The letter underscored broader concerns about the CFPB's history of filling leadership positions with political appointees – a practice that expanded under prior director Mick Mulvaney.

The current acting enforcement director, Cara Petersen, has led the division since May 2019 and had previously served as the Principal Deputy Enforcement Director. The appointment of Mr. Ward may thus bring new views and policy focuses to CFPB enforcement.