Attorney General Phil Weiser announced two more additions to his leadership team Monday, including the replacement of the administrator of the agency that oversees consumer finance.
Martha Fulford, who joined the Attorney General's Office on May 20, is the new first assistant attorney general and administrator for the Uniform Consumer Credit Code (UCCC) unit, which overseas payday and student loans, among other areas.
Her background includes six years with the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau under the Obama administration, and, more recently, senior counsel to the National Student Legal Defense Network.
That Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, founded in 2018, has sued Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at least three times, including over DeVos' attempt to block states' consumer protection laws as they apply to student loans.
The juxtaposition between Fulford's experience and the student loan business could not be better timed. That 2018 lawsuit against DeVos' Education Department was about the department's ruling that states could not regulate student loan servicers or apply state consumer protection laws to servicers.
Legislation passed by the General Assembly during the recently concluded 2019 session includes a measure — Senate Bill 2 — that begins the process for Colorado to regulate student loan servicers. Under SB2, those student loan providers have to be licensed by the UCCC. The law, signed by Gov. Jared Pols on May 13, also includes a long list of requirements for those who provide student loans, and it also allows the Administrator of the UCCC to conduct investigations, all enhanced duties for the position.
Before now, perhaps the best-known duty of the UCCC was to regulate payday lenders. The rules for payday lending changed substantially after voters approved Proposition 111 last November, which capped payday loans at 36% APR. Before then, payday loans could reach as much as 129% APR.
Weiser also announced on Monday the hiring of Steven Kaufmann as deputy attorney general of the Consumer Protection Section. Kaufmann will begin on July 1.
Kaufmann will supervise more than 40 staffers "responsible for investigating and prosecuting violations of state and federal consumer protection, antitrust and consumer lending laws," according to a statement from Weiser's office.
Kaufmann is a partner at Morrison Foerster, which has offices all over the country, including in Denver. Although he has been in Washington for the past decade, Kaufmann has extensive legal experience in Colorado; he clerked for Senior Judge John Kane at the U.S. District Court of Colorado. He also is the former board chair of both the Colorado Lawyers Committee and the Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation.
According to his bio with Morrison Foerster, Kaufmann was named "Colorado’s Top Lawyer" for management and litigation by Law Week Colorado.
The bio notes his 25 years of experience in areas such as commercial litigation, government enforcement and trial experience, where he has handled disputes and investigations in the financial services, telecommunications, energy, real estate, logistics and health care industries.
"He also has a strong background in class action defense in the financial services, securities and antitrust areas," according to the biography.
In 2010, Kaufmann was appointed by President Obama to serve as the chief of staff at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. government development agency "created to reduce poverty through long-term investments in impoverished countries," according to Weiser's statement. He served in that position for four years and returned to Morrison Foerster's Washington, D.C., office in 2014.
The Monday announcement brings to at least seven the number of positions filled by Weiser since he took office in January. He also replaced the agency's public information officer, the director of Safe2Tell Colorado, the deputy attorney general responsible for state services and the director of community engagement; he also added a chief innovation officer.