The United States Capitol
Richard Cordray leads the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Photo via the bureau’s Facebook page.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., is set to chair a congressional hearing this morning inquiring into allegations of discrimination at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC)

McHenry, who represents the state’s 10th Congressional District, is chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee.

The hearing was scheduled following the leak of an internal investigation regarding complaints from employees at the agency, which was established in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The organization, which employed 1,302 workers as of last September, is tasked with monitoring foreclosure relief services, debt collectors, payday lending services and credit report agencies, among other financial entities.

Allegations of discrimination and retaliation at CFPB first surfaced in a report published by American Banker, which obtained the investigation.

The report claimed that white CFPB employees were twice as likely to receive high grades administered by the agency than were African-American or Hispanic employees. The grades are used by the agency on a scale to determine salary raises and bonuses.

The investigation also described a “hostile work environment” inside the CFPB, where mismanagement and favoring of Caucasian men had led to numerous complaints against officials and supervisors.

The report is based on interviews conducted with a dozen current or former CFPB staffers, all of whom requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation. Agency officials have refuted the accusations, saying they lack credibility, according to a Politico report.

Upon publication of the American Banker article in early March, McHenry described the allegations as “extremely troubling.” The congressman then scheduled a hearing and invited two CFPB officials to testify, along with a whistleblower from the investigation.

The CFPB denied his request, informing McHenry that no agency officials would be present at the hearing. McHenry said the hearing would take place regardless.

“It’s unfortunate and deeply troubling that the CFPB refuses to answer questions about these allegations, particularly when the Bureau’s grounds for doing so are patently frivolous in light of the fact that their employee is voluntarily appearing to tell her story,” the congressman said, in a prepared statement on March 28. “The hearing will go forward, with or without the CFPB’s participation.”

McHenry, who also has a post on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is a long-time critic of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The congressman voted against creation of the CFPB four years ago, and in 2011 clashed with now-U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who had been tapped to help oversee the start of the new agency at the time.

To watch the hearing, which begins at 10 a.m., click here.

James Harrison

James Harrison is a contributing reporter with Carolina Public Press. Reach him at jharrison@carolinapublicpress.org.

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