The Business On... Elizabeth Warren, Assistant to the US President

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The Independent Online

The woman Wall Street loves to hate?

She is going to impose plain English on mortgage documents and ban dodgy credit-card lending practices. Of course the financial industry hates her. But there is a grudging admiration, too.

How so?

For how she has fearlessly withstood the lobbying against her. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – the culmination of her life's work – is taking shape.

A life's work?

The 61-year-old Harvard law professor has spent her career writing about bankruptcy, and chronicling the misery of families tricked into and trapped under too much debt. A few years ago she suggested a financial agency to back consumers, and Barack Obama picked her to advise on setting it up. The President called her "the janitor's daughter who has become one of the country's fiercest advocates for the middle class".

What's the argument?

You would not be allowed to sell a toaster that had a one-in-five chance of exploding, so why should lenders base their profits on penalties from the one in five borrowers who breach obscure terms in the small print?

Sounds reasonable.

Not to Wall Street and Republicans. They opposed the idea of the CFPB. Now they control part of Congress they want to starve it of funds. Most of all, they want to stop Professor Warren running it. The chairmanship has to be filled urgently, though, she said yesterday.

Will she get the job?

She has been on a charm offensive in Congress, and her sheer fearlessness is winning her friends. Speaking clearly and directly, like the schoolteacher she once was, she was in the lion's den yesterday, before a House of Representatives committee. But she kept mum on whether she is up for the job. "I understand there will be a nomination soon," she told the legislators.