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U. prof joins federal consumer financial protection unit

First Published May 09 2012 11:38 am • Last Updated Aug 28 2012 11:32 pm

Washington • A University of Utah law professor known for his critical view of payday lending has taken a job with the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Chris Peterson will take a leave from the U. law school to join the enforcement unit of the new bureau, charged with regulating everything from credit cards to mortgages.

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He has called for a warning label on payday loans that would mark them as "predatory," and he has been critical of the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, a mega-company created by mortgage bankers that owns more than half of all residential mortgages and has been actively foreclosing on thousands of Americans.

"This appointment manifests the bureau’s willingness to appoint senior staff members who have staked out strong positions on the merits of highly contentious issues the bureau will be facing," wrote Alan Kaplinsky, who writes the CFPB Monitor blog and represents companies involved in consumer lending.

An attorney who just left the bureau’s enforcement unit to start his own law firm says that Peterson "will be a real asset."

"He’s one of the leading scholars on consumer finance and predatory lending," said Deepak Gupta, an appellate lawyer in Washington. "I think he’ll be a real resource for people in the agency."

Peterson joined the U. of U. law school in 2008 after lobbying Congress and the federal government on behalf of tighter consumer lending policies for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

His service at the U. and his new position were praised by Hiram Chodosh, dean of the U. law school

"Chris offers the bureau stellar, nationally recognized expertise on financial regulation and an indefatigable commitment to public service," Chodosh said.

Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as part of the Dodd-Frank act, drafted in reaction to the housing bubble and financial collapse of 2007. It began operating in mid-2011 and remains a politically divisive entity.

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Republicans, including Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, long opposed the appointment of its director, Richard Cordray, because they believed the bureau had too much autonomy and would inhibit legitimate business dealings. President Barack Obama appointed Cordray in January, citing his recess appointment power.

Lee has protested that move — which he believes is unconstitutional — by voting against every one of the president’s nominees coming before the Senate, including individuals he supports.

mcanham@sltrib.comTwitter: @mattcanham

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