In charge of consumer bureau, Warren takes new tone

WASHINGTON Fri Oct 22, 2010 5:50pm EDT

President Barack Obama announces consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren (R) as special adviser leading the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama announces consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren (R) as special adviser leading the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington September 17, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A little more than a month into her job as President Barack Obama's top adviser on consumer financial issues, Elizabeth Warren has been trying to make peace with the financial industry she once attacked and that rarely had good things to say about her.

Gone is the tough talk about having "blood and teeth left on the floor," as she told the Huffington Post in March during the fight over creating the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Now Warren is talking about how the government and the financial industry can work together for the consumer.

"The thing that probably has surprised me most is how surprised they were by the conversation," Warren said on Friday when describing the meetings she has had in recent weeks with financial executives. "They were very glad to be invited and they had some very thoughtful insights."

The change in tone is a reflection of a new reality for both Warren and the financial industry. The consumer agency is now law and the two will have to live with each other, at least for now.

To that end Warren has been on a meet-and-greet tour.

Since September 17 when she joined the administration Warren has met with the chief executive officers of the 14 largest U.S. financial institutions and the heads of eight industry trade groups, many of whom spent the first half of this year trying to prevent the bureau from ever being created.

She spent October 18 on Wall Street.

Warren has also been making rounds on television, stopping by the daytime talkshow "The View" on Friday to sell the agency to an audience that doesn't always follow regulatory battles. Her spokesman said there has been no media coaching as part of her becoming the administration's face for consumer issues.

Warren, a Harvard Law School professor, is officially a special adviser to Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

What remains an open question is whether she will eventually be nominated to be the bureau's first director. The administration has held off on making this decision amid questions about whether Warren would have the votes to overcome Republican attempts to stall her nomination in the U.S. Senate.

For now, she is eager to tout the progress being made in advance of the agency becoming fully operational in July.

On Wednesday, Warren gave reporters a tour of the offices she and her staff of more than 50 are using in Washington. They moved in on October 18 and the newness of the space was evident in the cubicle maps taped to walls.

Warren said there is a lot of "enthusiasm" for the bureau and noted they have received more than 1,500 resumes from people outside of the government.

Still, despite the new tone, Warren is well aware that the industry remains opposed to the agency and that it will be under great scrutiny if Republicans gain one or both chambers of Congress in the November 2 elections.

"This agency does not have a secure place," she told a group of foreign reporters as part of a busy Friday. "It has enemies both political and economic."

(Reporting by Dave Clarke, Editing by Jackie Frank)

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