The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Thursday announced a handful of executive appointments, including the addition of Thomas Ward to lead its enforcement efforts.

The hiring comes with controversy as Ward previously served as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Division at the U.S. Department of Justice since July 2017. When reports first surfaced of his potential appointment as assistant director of enforcement at the CFPB, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, was among those to raise concerns of a potential politicizing of the independent agency.

Waters, in the form of a Dec. 17 letter to CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger, noted Ward was a political appointee and the CFPB’s description of the job listed it as an excepted service position. “Federal law prohibits the appointment of individuals to the excepted service based on political affiliation,” Waters stated, adding the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) requires agencies to seek approval before naming a former political appointee to a civil service position.

“The potential selection of Mr. Ward for Enforcement Director raises serious concerns about whether the Consumer Bureau has adhered to civil service laws and OPM guidance governing the hiring of political appointees into career positions,” Waters wrote.

Waters requested the CFPB turn over all communications it had with the OPM, Department of Justice, and Ward before Jan. 7. Kraninger responded in a letter Wednesday saying the OPM deemed Ward’s hiring “free from political influence and [compliant] with applicable service laws and regulations.”

“Mr. Ward is eminently qualified to be the Bureau’s Enforcement Director, as he brings a wealth of experience as both a litigator of complex cases and a manager of other attorneys,” Kraninger wrote. “… I am confident that he will make an excellent leader of the Bureau’s enforcement team.”

His appointment now official, Ward assumes a role that has been vacant since Kristen Donoghue resigned in May 2019. Cara Petersen has held the position on an acting basis.

Other CFPB appointments announced Thursday include the following:

  • Susan Bernard as assistant director for regulations in the Research, Markets and Regulation Division.
  • Donna Roy as chief information officer in the Operations Division.
  • Rachelle Vaughan as chief procurement officer in the Operations Division.
  • David Wernecke as chief experience officer.