WASHINGTON — Frank Keating, the head of the American Bankers Association, on Tuesday quickly reneged on his endorsement of Elizabeth Warren as director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau within hours of saying the trade group would "be fully supportive" of her nomination.
In a telephone interview, Keating said his earlier statement to reporters after his first speech before the Women in Housing and Finance was only if Warren was nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The remark was not made in regards to her potential nomination, Keating said.
He said it is up to the president to make that call, and there is always the possibility she could not be confirmed, if for instance she took a contrary position to the law.
Keating reiterated that there are certain reforms that will need to be made to the CFPB, which is a process the ABA intends to be involved in with whoever is confirmed as director.
"My role is to support or oppose … [and] work with her if selected," said Keating.
Earlier in the day, Keating had said "if she is the nominee, we would be fully supportive of her."
Keating, a former governor of Oklahoma, joined the ABA as president and chief executive on Jan. 1.
Speaking to reporters, Keating said President Obama may nominate Warren following the surge of support after the death of Osama bin Laden.
"Because of that lift to the president, it may well be that he does decide to nominate her," said Keating. "She's very bright, very capable."
He added: "If she is going to be nominated, it's as a result, truthfully in my opinion, of the events of the last several days. The president is really riding high right now. He may decide it's worth it, let's get her."
Keating acknowledged public criticism of Warren's focus on enforcement issues, which he says he's spoken to her about.
"Consumer protection is a two-way street," said Keating. "You have bad consumers trying to screw banks, and on occasion, financial institutions trying to screw consumers. So you've got both; it's a two way street."
He's also made the case to Warren on the need to preserve community banks, which average just 35 employees. He said those employees are tasked with implementing thousands of pages of regulations signaling that at some point bankers may be too burdened with compliance obligations to do their actual jobs.
"We need regulation, but it can't be oppressive," said Keating. "If that community bank closes because the regulatory burden is so oppressive, it's simply isn't worth it. When those banks close those towns are going to blow away."