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Cliff Rosenthal is the author of Democratizing Finance: Origins of the Community Development Financial Institutions Movement (November 2018). An internationally recognized leader in bringing financial services to low-income and minority communities, he led the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (now: Inclusiv) for more 30 years. Raising below-market investments from faith-based organizations, foundations, and corporations, he established the Capitalization Program for Community Development Credit Unions, which under his leadership channeled more than $100 million in deposits and secondary capital into CDCUs. He co-founded the Coalition of Community Development Financial Institutions, which successfully advocated for the establishment of the federal CDFI Fund.


Cliff helped organize a dozen credit unions and coauthored Organizing Credit Unions: A Manual. His other works include “Credit Unions, Community Development Finance, and the Great Recession” (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 2012); “People’s Credit: A Study of the Lending of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, 1986-89; and Community Banking Partnerships: Legal Structures that Work. In 2012, he left the National Federation to launch the Office of Financial Empowerment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), developing initiatives to improve access to financial services for economically vulnerable consumers.


He received the Herb Wegner Award of the National Credit Union Foundation (2005), as well as the highest awards of the Opportunity Finance Network, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, the Lawyers Alliance of New York City, the National Federation of CDCUs, the Network of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals and others.  The ASI Federal Credit Union in New Orleans named the “Clifford N. Rosenthal Community Resource Center” to honor his assistance after Hurricane Katrina. 


Cliff holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Columbia University, where he was trained as a Russian historian, subsequently receiving a mid-career fellowship to study financial institutions. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Brooklyn at Brooklyn College (CUNY) and a volunteer advisor for the Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York City (CEANYC).

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