Watchdog: Accountability

CFPB settles with whistleblower two days before Congress hears more allegations of workplace abuses

By |
Congress,Watchdog,Richard Pollock,Finance and Banking,CFPB,Whistleblowers,Accountability

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officials settled a high-profile complaint of gender discrimination and retaliation Monday, ending a two-year saga involving senior enforcement attorney Angela Martin.

Martin told the House Financial Services Committee during an April 2 hearing about what she described as "a pervasive culture of retaliation and intimidation" within the CFPB workplace.

Martin received significant bipartisan support from members of the committee, and was described by the panel as a "whistleblower."

“The bureau is going to be better because of this,” Martin told the Washington Examiner Monday. “But it’s not without its pain. At this point, I had to settle with the bureau. There’s a lot more I could have fought for and over, but at what personal cost? I’m doing the best that I can. I’m giving voices to others."

The bureau was also embarrassed when an investigator it retained, Misty Raucci, not only confirmed Martin’s charges, but added that the bureau was a “toxic workplace,” and that discrimination was pervasive there.

Bureau officials settled two days before two more employees are scheduled to testify before a House subcommittee on the workplace environment at CFPB.

CFPB officials agreed to re-assign Martin as a military affairs liaison with the offices of judge advocate generals of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard and to the commandant of the Marine Corps.

The bureau also will pay Martin a lump sum of $25,000 but will not cover her attorney’s fees. In return, Martin agreed to withdraw all pending formal and informal complaints against the agency.

CFPB spokesman Samuel Gilford told the Washington Examiner that "the CFPB does not comment on confidential employee matters."

Martin told the Examiner during an interview in CFPB's Washington headquarters that "yes, beyond a doubt” it was worth pursuing legal action against the bureau.

Martin will move to her hometown of Sanford, N.C., and tele-work. She will be paid less there because federal locality pay is higher in Washington. CFPB will pay her $174,000 this year.

The agency also will rescind an Aug. 20, 2013, email by Martin’s supervisor Scott Pluta, who ordered her to stop all communication with her CFPB colleagues.

In a Dec. 16, 2013, memo, the National Treasury Employees Union filed an informal grievance against CFPB for Pluta's email, charging it was an infringement on Martin's rights of association and free speech.

CFPB officials originally recruited Martin as a consumer lawyer after she completed a 10-year stint as a civilian in the Army's JAG Corps.

Bureau Director Richard Cordray interviewed Martin and hired her. She joined the CFPB staff in June 2011.

A February 2013 formal complaint submitted by Martin described in detail how the quality of her work had been previously recognized.

But things went downhill around May 2012 when Dane D’Alessandro, a colleague, allegedly mistreated Martin and other female employees in the Consumer Response unit where they worked. D’Alessandro was the unit’s chief of investigations.

“Alessandro has trouble working with women, regularly treating women, including myself, with disrespect and disdain,” Martin stated in her complaint.

He “frequently and openly expresses discontent with regards to accepting direction, ideas, or input from female colleagues,” she said in the complaint.

“I have seen him repeatedly yell at and bully women in our section,” she said, “but I have never observed similar conduct involving a man.”

In October 2012 Martin told Pluta that D’Alessandro’s behavior “constituted sex discrimination and that it needed to be addressed.”

Martin said in her complaint that to her knowledge, "nothing was ever done to address my complaints.”

After she filed her complaint, Pluta issued Martin the lowest possible performance rating and removed her from supervisory duties.

Pluta enjoyed a 10-percent pay raise between 2011 and 2012, going from annual $157,000 to $175,000. He also received an additional $7,700 award in 2012, according to federal salary database maintained by the Asbury Park (N.J) Press.

“I have heard from my colleagues. They have thanked me. They’ve congratulated me," Martin told the Examiner.

"I have lifted spirits from the bottom up, so at least they know there’s a safe place to go and at least they know their voices will be heard."

View article comments Leave a comment