U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., became visibly exasperated during a congressional subcommittee hearing Wednesday as he listened to the testimony of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau employee who said she experienced discrimination and retaliation within the agency.
McHenry, who is chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, scheduled the hearing after a leaked internal investigation described a culture of prejudice within divisions of the agency, which employs more than 1,300 workers. McHenry represents portions of Buncombe, Catawba, Lincoln, Gaston, Cleveland, Rutherford and Polk Counties,
The investigation, revealed last month in a report published by American Banker, claimed that white CFPB employees were twice as likely to be awarded high grades for raises and bonuses by supervisors than African-American or Hispanic workers. In addition, the report described a “hostile work environment,” with more than 200 complaints filed by CFPB workers with the National Treasury Employees Union.
Many of McHenry’s questions were directed to Angela Martin, who worked as a lawyer in the CFPB’s enforcement division. While eliciting testimony from Martin, who said she had experienced retaliation from supervisors for filing a complaint of gender discrimination, McHenry asked her how the treatment she received had made her feel.
“Emotionally, I’m devastated forever,” Martin replied. “The fact that this wasn’t addressed when it happened to me has allowed another trail of victims. This is unacceptable.”
Martin went on to say she thought the CFPB should establish its own “wounded warriors” program, for employees who had become “emotionally scarred” and required counseling after experiences working at the agency.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, established in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Protection Act, exists to enforce federal consumer financial protection laws. The organization also processes consumer complaints, monitors financial markets for new risks and promotes financial education. McHenry, who cast a vote against passage of Dodd-Frank four years ago, has since been a vocal critic of the agency and its structure.
Although the agency refused to send two officials to testify, CFPB Director Richard Cordray issued a statement following Wednesday’s hearing. The director apologized for the issues detailed and volunteered to appear at a later time.
“I take seriously the concerns raised at today’s hearing and deeply apologize to any member of the CFPB staff who feels they have not been heard or treated fairly,” he said, in a statement published by Politico. “I welcome the opportunity to appear before Congress to discuss these issues fully.”