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Civil rights commissioner wants documents, answers from CFPB on discrimination charges

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Allegations of widespread racial and gender discrimination at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have prompted an investigation by a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, the only Republican on the eight-member commission, wrote to CFPB General Counsel Meredith Fuchs on Tuesday that he is concerned "employees of the bureau are engaged in systematic discrimination against women and minorities."

A Cleveland lawyer who served on the National Labor Relations Board under President George W. Bush, Kirsanow requested copies of CFPB documents in nine separate categories, including internal reports on discrimination and retaliation, an itemized list of Equal Employment Opportunity complaints and a list of formal and informal EEO settlements.

He also asked for documents concerning instances in which CFPB declined EEO mediation, including the identification of bureau managers who refused the practice.

In his letter, Kirsanow referred to the April 2 testimony before the House Financial Services Committee of Misty Raucci, an independent investigator hired by CFPB to probe allegations of discrimination and retaliatory action against Angela Martin, a CFPB attorney.

Martin and Raucci alleged that discrimination was pervasive at the bureau, and that when Martin complained, CFPB supervisors retaliated against her.

"Martin testified that her manager had discriminated against and retaliated against her. Ms. Martin’s claims were supported by Misty Raucci, the independent investigator retained by the bureau to determine the truth of Martin’s claims," Kirsanow wrote.

Martin is still employed at CFPB but has been given little to do.

CFPB was created by Congress to more carefully regulate consumer finance — services such as credit cards and mortgage lending — including protecting consumers from racial, gender and other forms of discrimination in the marketplace.

Bureau officials were invited to testify at the April 2 hearing but the agency refused to permit any of its employees to do so.

Raucci charged CFPB had become a “toxic workplace” for minorities and women. The investigator told lawmakers that, as she began her investigation on Martin’s case, she had become a “veritable hotline” for CFPB employees who faced similar mistreatment.

Martin described “a pervasive culture of retaliation and intimidation” at the bureau. Martin also said that CFPB’s Consumer Response intake unit had so many African-Americans, it had been derisively called “The Plantation” by bureau employees. Martin was an attorney assigned to the unit.

"The general environment in Consumer Response is one of exclusion, retaliation, discrimination, nepotism, demoralization, devaluation and other offensive working conditions which constitute a toxic workplace for many of its employees,” Raucci concluded.

Another CFPB enforcement attorney, Benjamin Konop, who is also executive vice president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents CFPB employees, told the committee that there are “extremely unhappy employees in the consumer response unit" that “justified complaints and it seemed to revolve around race.”

A Deloitte consulting study conducted at the request of CFPB and obtained by the Washington Examiner concluded that there is a lack of accountability for its diversity efforts that was “pervasive across CFPB.”

The study was delivered to CFPB in September 2013 but was never widely distributed among the bureau's senior managers.

On May 19, CFPB Director Richard Cordray scuttled an agency performance review system that awarded top ratings to white supervisors twice as frequently as to minorities and women. Cordray then told CFPB employees that all those who received a ranking of three or four would be automatically awarded the top ranking of five and given bonuses.

Konop said Cordray’s action was a good first step but that more had to be done to restore fairness to the agency.

The Civil Rights Commission also includes four Democratic members and an independent. There are two vacancies. The commissioners are appointed by the president and Congress.

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