Warren Reaches Out to Bankers, Pledges Credit-Card Review

Elizabeth Warren, who President Barack Obama named an adviser to set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, immediately sought to repair her relations with the financial industry and said the new agency would likely first look into credit-card marketing.

“I have more reaching out to do,” Warren said in an interview yesterday with Bloomberg Television, referring to the bankers she has criticized for taking advantage of consumers. “They are not the people I have been hanging out with for a long, long time.”

She said she plans to “reach out, not just because I’ve got to be gracious, I’ve got to reach out because I’ve got to learn.”

By appointing Warren an adviser, Obama avoids a Senate confirmation battle while letting her help create the agency she is credited with proposing several years ago.

Warren is “one of the country’s fiercest advocates for the middle class,” Obama said yesterday in the White House Rose Garden as he announced her appointment to shape the agency. She will serve both as an assistant to Obama and as a special adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

The two posts won’t present any difficulties, Warren said.

“I actually am going to wear two hats,” she said in the interview. “That was exactly how the president described it to me.”

‘Pivotal Role’

Obama said Warren, 61, will play a “pivotal role” in determining who will be the first director of the bureau when it becomes an independent agency housed at the Federal Reserve. That transfer may still be months away.

Warren, whose nomination to lead the agency as director would have faced Republican opposition in the Senate, said she and Obama talked over the past several weeks about whether she should be nominated as the agency’s permanent head.

While saying she wasn’t cowed by the banking lobby or the prospect of the Senate confirmation process, she concluded that “every day spent fighting is a day not spent working to get the agency up and running.”

One of her first priorities will be to revise credit-card marketing, Warren said in the interview. Credit-card “agreements are still long and they are still hard to read and they are still chock full of surprises.”

“Maybe we need to think about how do you design a credit card agreement from the beginning where ordinary folks can read it in just a few minutes and understand it,” she said.

On reaching out to bankers, she said she has already begun to make calls and declined to provide names.

“I don’t want to embarrass anybody at this point,” she said. “But I’ve had some really good conversations today.”

Citigroup Call

One of those executives was Vikram Pandit, chief executive officer of Citigroup, Inc.

Pandit and “had a good conversation when they spoke on the phone today,” Molly Meiners, a Citigroup spokeswoman, said yesterday. “Citi is very focused on helping consumers in our country, and Vikram looks forward to working with Ms. Warren as she guides the development of this important new agency.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, at a news briefing after the announcement, declined to say whether Warren will be in the running to head the new agency.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hans Nichols in Washington at hnichols2@bloomberg.net.

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