PoliticoRepublicans reject request to cancel CFPB hearing
By MJ LEE | 3/31/14 4:16 PM EDT
Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee said on Monday that they will proceed with a hearing to examine complaints leveled by a CFPB employee against her supervisor, declining Democratic lawmakers’ request that the Wednesday hearing be canceled.
Top Democrats on panel asked Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) on Friday to table the hearing, arguing it would inappropriately focus on the details of a single case rather than on broader personnel practices.
In a March 28 letter, the committee’s Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and the oversight subcommittee’s top Democrat Al Green (D-Texas) said the hearing was originally going to focus on possible discrimination at the bureau, based on recent reports that white CFPB employees received higher ratings than minority employees on a rating scale the bureau uses to determine benefits, such as raises and bonuses.
Now, they said, it appears it will focus only on a single personnel dispute at the bureau.
“While we welcome a thorough investigation of discriminatory personnel practices within our financial regulatory agencies, we are troubled that this hearing is delving into the specifics of an individual, unresolved matter,” Waters and Green wrote. “Further, it now appears to have taken on a more political motivation, to further disparage the CFPB, than out of genuine concern for the professional advancement of women and minorities.”
But Hensarling and oversight subcommittee chairman Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said Monday that the hearing will not center exclusively on one individual’s complaints, but on the overall environment at the consumer bureau as well. They also noted that the committee initially asked several CFPB officials to testify, but that the bureau has declined to cooperate.
“We hope that you will help us encourage other suffering employees to come forward to the Committee as whistleblowers,” the Republican lawmakers wrote in a letter to Waters and Green.
At issue are accusations leveled by Angela Martin, a lawyer in the bureau’s enforcement division, that her supervisor retaliated against her after she filed a complaint of gender discrimination against another employee.
The CFPB hired an outside investigator to look into the issue, and a subsequent six-month probe concluded that Martin’s claims are valid and also described a “toxic environment” at one of the agency’s divisions.
Both Martin and the investigator — Misty Raucci — are set to testify at the Oversight Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.
The consumer bureau has aggressively pushed back on the findings of the internal investigation, and said CFPB officials will not testify at this week’s hearing because it pertains to personal information of employees.
Scott Pluta, the agency’s assistant director of the office of consumer response accused of retaliating against Martin, called Martin’s claims “patently false.”
“The findings of an independent investigation are far more credible than Mr. Pluta’s self-serving denial of his misconduct,” said Martin’s lawyer, Jason Zuckerman.
Pluta said he hopes the committee will allow him to testify at the hearing. A spokesman for the panel said they have not received such a request from Pluta.