Will the CFPB testify about employee-discrimination allegations?

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A federal agency that sues lenders for racial bias as part of its regulatory mission may soon have to answer allegations of discrimination.

A House oversight panel for the Financial Services Committee plans to vote Tuesday on whether to subpoena the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for testimony after the regulatory agency declined to appear this month at a hearing about claims of bias.

The subcommittee is investigating allegations from Angela Martin, a white CFPB attorney who said the bureau discriminated and retaliated against her. “Sadly, my story is not unique,” she told the panel. “My colleagues likewise have suffered and are suffering at the hands of inexperienced, unaccountable manager.”


CFPB Director Richard Cordray. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

“Angela Martin’s testimony before the committee is evidence that her experience of discrimination and retaliation at the CFPB is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). “That is why it is important to have [CFPB officials] come before the subcommittee to explain how and why this is happening.”

The bureau has said that discussing the matter publicly could violate Martin’s privacy rights as an employee who filed a grievance.

Nine Democrats on the Financial Services Committee responded to the discrimination allegations with letters last month calling on seven inspector generals to determine whether personnel practices are creating bias within their agencies.

Martin’s allegations added to concerns about a recent independent review that revealed a pattern of higher performance marks for white employees compared to minorities at the CFPB. The bureau commissioned the study and released the findings last month.

The survey, which covered 1,173 CFPB employees, found that 21 percent of whites had received the highest possible performance mark during the last fiscal year, compared to 15.5 percent of Asians, 10.5 percent of blacks and 9 percent of Hispanics.

Less disparity existed with the second-highest rating, for which 56 percent of Hispanics, 54 percent of whites, 50 percent of Asians and 47 percent of blacks received the mark, according to the results.

In response to the report, CFPB Director Richard Cordray assured employees in an email that the bureau’s officials were working on plans to “further our commitment to equality and fairness,” according to a Wall Street Journal article.

CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly identified Angela Martin as an African American instead of caucasian. The article has been updated with her correct race. 

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to federalworker@washpost.com.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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