‘Why haven’t heads rolled?’ Damning report of continued woes at CFPB

by Ryan Smith21 Jun 2016
Recently released findings from the Government Accountability Office paint a grim picture of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s workplace culture.

The CFPB has come under fire before for what employees and former employees described as a pervasive culture of discrimination and retaliation. In March of last year, the Inspector General of the Federal Reserve audited the agency and made 17 recommendations related to diversity and inclusion. According to the GAO report, the CFPB has failed to complete seven of them. And the results of a GAO survey of CFPB employees “found heightened concerns related to fair treatment, trust that employees can raise concerns without fear of reprisal, confidence in complaint processes, and other matters,” the watchdog reported.

The survey seems to indicate that a culture of discrimination is still a problem at the agency. Nearly one in five employees said they had been discriminated against, and a quarter of black, Asian and female employees surveyed said they had been victims of workplace discrimination at the CFPB.

Among the report’s other findings:
  • A quarter or more of respondents in the CFPB’s Office of Consumer Response and Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending Division said they’d been discriminated against.
  • A third of respondents said they didn’t believe success at the agency was passed more on merit than favoritism. Those results were even higher among black employees (41%) and female employees (37%).
  • 71% of survey respondents who’d filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint said they didn’t feel that the CFPB management made a good-faith effort to resolve the complaint informally.
  • Several employees cited cases in which a complainant’s privacy was violated when managers, the EEO office or the Office of Human Capital shared private information with people without a need to know about the complaint.
  • About half of those who had experience with the EEO process said the CFPB’s Office of Civil Rights was not a neutral party free of conflicting interests.
  • 27% said they didn’t think employees felt comfortable raising concerns or disagreeing with superiors without fear of reprisal.
  • 28% didn’t have confidence they could pursue a complaint without fear of reprisal.
  • About 9% said they had personally been retaliated against.
  • About 10% said they had personally observed retaliation against another employee.
  • Nearly a quarter said that managers were not held accountable for how they handled employees. That number was even higher in the Office of Consumer Response (33%) the Office of Human Capital (49%) and the SEFL division – where 52% of employees said their managers faced no accountability.
House Financial Services Committee chair Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has long criticized the CFPB. In 2014, his committee held hearings in which several CFPB employees and former employees testified that they had experienced discrimination and retaliation.  After the release of the GAO report, Hensarling blamed CFPB Director Richard Cordray for allowing a culture of discrimination to continue at the agency.

“This report from the nonpartisan GAO confirms that there are serious problems of discrimination and retaliation by managers against employees at the CFPB. This is exactly what multiple whistleblowers told our committee,” Hensarling said Tuesday. “Only one man has the power to fix this immediately, and that’s Richard Cordray.”

Hensarling accused Cordray of making “at best, half-hearted” attempts to deal with the issues raised by the report.

“For at least three years, Mr. Cordray has been presented time and again with evidence that CFPB managers discriminate and retaliate against his employees – from a report the CFPB commissioned in 2013, from whistleblowers, from Congress, from the Federal Reserve’s Inspector General and now from the Government Accountability Office,” Hensarling said. “Why haven’t heads rolled? Instead of trying to sweep this offensive behavior under the rug, why hasn’t Richard Cordray called someone on the carpet? How can employees expect this to stop if no one in management is going to be held accountable?

“There is an alarming lack of accountability at the CFPB,” he continued. “And that’s got to change.”
 

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