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Watchdog: Follow the Money

Jeb Hensarling panel demands 'full, unredacted' records on CFPB's rising renovation costs

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Watchdog,Richard Pollock,Judicial Watch,CFPB,Freedom of Information Act,Waste and Fraud,Follow the Money,Jeb Hensarling,FOIA,Patrick McHenry

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling is demanding “full, unredacted” emails and financial records from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about the exploding costs for its headquarters building renovation.

The Texas Republican told CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a July 18 letter that the committee wanted all email communications, financial control sheets and the identity of the officer who approved the renovation plan.

Hensarling also demanded documents on CFPB's Investment Review Board, which did not conduct a proper review of the renovation plan, as required by the bureau's own policies, according to the Federal Reserve Bank's inspector general.

The committee chairman gave the committee until July 31 to furnish the documents.

IG Mark Bialek said in a June 30 letter to Rep. Patrick McHenry that renovation costs have escalated from a baseline of $55 million to $215 million.

McHenry is chairman of the panel's financial services subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

CFPB is housed in the Federal Reserve System, so it is essentially exempt from congressional oversight. The bureau's funding comes from the Fed.

The bureau's funding also is not subject to the congressional appropriation process. Instead, CFPB is financed by funds from the Federal Reserve.

Bialek concluded the IRB had failed to conduct a mandatory review of the capital expenditures for the CFPB renovation, and as a result, there was no “sound basis” for the spending plan.

"The approval of funding for the renovation was not in accordance with the CFPB’s current policies for major investments” and as “a sound business case is not available to support the funding of the renovation,” he said.

Among other things, the IRB was supposed to conduct a comparative analysis of various renovation options, which it did not do.

The IG said the review wasn't done "because funding approval was viewed as a formality, given that the decision to proceed with the renovation had already been made.”

CFPB has refused to answer questions from Congress or the Washington Examiner about why renovation costs have spiraled.

In the June 30 letter, Bialek noted CFPB was “unable to locate any documentation” for the renovation.

The Examiner filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against CFPB earlier this year that's pending before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The suit was filed after CFPB refused to provide documents on the renovation costs that were requested by the Examiner in a FOIA request.

The Examiner is represented in the suit by Judicial Watch, the nonprofit government watchdog.

A CFPB spokesman said the bureau received the Hensarling letter but declined to comment on it.

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