The Obama administration has tapped former Minnesota Atty. Gen. Hubert H. "Skip" Humphrey III to head a new office in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau focused on issues affecting older Americans.
Humphrey, 69, the son of former Vice President and U.S. Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey Jr., is the second person with a well-known name to be appointed to a top position at the new agency. The head of the Office of Servicemember Affairs is Holly Petraeus, the wife of former Army Gen. David Petraeus, who now serves as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Like Holly Petraeus, who had been active on financial issues facing members of the military for years, Humphrey III has a long history in his own right of working on consumer protection. He was Minnesota attorney general for 16 years and served 10 years in the state Senate. Since 2008, he has been an AARP board member.
"Skip is a great leader. He's a great consumer protector," said Raj Date, the Obama administration adviser heading the consumer bureau until the Senate confirms a director. "He knows that consumer education is a critical complement to tough enforcement measures."
When Congress created the consumer bureau -- the centerpiece of the financial reform law enacted last year -- it mandated that the agency look at financial issues affecting specific populations, including older Americans.
Since the financial crisis, senior citizens have become targets of scams, in part because of the estimated $3 trillion in equity of the homes they own. Consumers Union reported last year that older Americans were particularly vulnerable to being misled on reverse mortgages and called for more government oversight.
Humphrey said that he will focus on increased education to help senior citizens deal with the "confusing and complicated financial services marketplace."
"For most seniors, our retirement savings -- if we have any -- and our homes are all we have," he told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. "If we want to keep a good standard of living and enjoy our retirement years, we need to hang on to these assets."
Seniors lose an estimated $3 billion a year to financial scams, Humphrey said.
In a blog post on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website, Humphrey alluded to his father's commitment to public service in talking about how he would run the new office.
"I grew up in a household where it wasn’t enough to just have a point of view," he wrote. "My parents taught me that if I had a problem, I needed to do something about it. Here at the Office of Older Americans, we’ll be embracing this do-something attitude from day one."
-- Jim Puzzanghera
Photo: Hubert Humphrey III. Credit: AARP