#11. Sen. Elizabeth Warren
(D-Mass.), Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs
A leading voice in marketplace lending’s proposed regulatory infrastructure, Elizabeth Warren, the senior Democratic U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, is an expert on consumer lending. Before she entered Congress, Warren was a bankruptcy analyst as well as a Harvard Law professor and eventually became the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program in 2008. From 2010 to 2011 she served as the special assistant to President Barack Obama for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an independent federal agency authorized by the Dodd-Frank Act. She helped set up the bureau to shield Americans from shady dealings by mortgage lenders, student loan servicers and credit card companies—not endearing her to the financial sector. She came up with the watchdog agency idea in the wake of the financial meltdown during the Great Recession and helped get it established despite vehement opposition. Under CFPB’s rules, mortgage lenders can no longer push borrowers into high-priced loans, which are more profitable, even if the borrowers qualified for a lower-cost mortgage. As a result, the CFPB helped cut down on foreclosures, because it forced mortgage lenders to verify the borrowers’ ability to repay the loan. Debt collectors, payday lenders and other under-regulated financial institutions that profit off low-income Americans face greater regulatory scrutiny since the CFPB set up shop. Another target of Warren’s has been the fine print in financial products, such as lending contracts and credit card applications, so consumers won’t get hit with hidden fees. Among her books are A Fighting Chance, which was both a personal memoir and a political polemic against predatory financial institutions, and The Two-Income Trap, explaining why middle-class mothers and fathers were losing ground economically due to the country’s increasing income inequality. Today, Warren is seen as the leading financial watchdog for ordinary Americans and a populist heroine, and as such, possesses great potential to move up this list, depending on future regulations.