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CFPB Diversity Efforts Under Fire

As pressures mount to increase oversight and accountability of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a recent report on the agency’s diversity problems has spurred members of Congress to speak out.

An audit report conducted by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) earlier this month shows that 100% of promotions to pay grades 80 and above went to white employees during fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Additionally, in fiscal year 2011, 100% of promotions to pay grades below 50 went to white employees. 

The OIG also identified other areas of the CFPB’s diversity and inclusion efforts that needed work.

For instance, diversity and inclusion training is not mandatory for CFPB employees, supervisors or senior managers. Data quality issues exist in the agency’s tracking spreadsheets for equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaints and negotiated grievances, and certain data related to performance management are not analyzed for trends that could be indicative of potential diversity and inclusion issues, the OIG report finds. 

Following the report’s release, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), one of the CFPB’s most vocal critics, in a statement called the CFPB “a very troubled bureaucracy and these findings [lend] credence to what dozens of whistleblowers have told our committee,” according to a recent article by The Hill. 

“Each day it becomes more apparent that the CFPB is an unaccountable Washington bureaucracy in need of real reforms,” Hensarling said.

In response to the report’s findings, the CFPB acknowledged existing issues and outlined ways in which it was working or will work to enhance its diversity and inclusion efforts. 

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) expressed a more positive outlook on the findings as well as the CFPB’s willingness to make the necessary changes.

“While the findings confirm anecdotal suspicions, I am pleased to see that the CFPB has agreed with every recommendation made by the Inspector General and has already begun taking significant steps to address diversity and inclusion issues within its ranks,” she writes in a statement. 

The report follows moves by several in Congress to restructure the leadership of the CFPB or to create an agency watchdog, which would increase its oversight and accountability. 

A bill introduced earlier this month in the House of Representatives is calling for a change in the leadership, shifting from a sole director-led agency to one headed by a multi-member commission. 

Additionally, Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.) re-introduced in February the bipartisan Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection-Inspector General Act of 2015 — legislation that would create the position of an independent inspector general at the CFPB. 

Currently, the CFPB has very little congressional oversight, as it does not have its own independent inspector general but shares one with the Federal Reserve. However, making changes to the leadership structure could help, according to Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), who introduced the bill that would create a bipartisan five-person committee to serve as the ruling body of the CFPB.

“Over the last several years, the Bureau’s actions and record have proven it can’t function in a sustainable manner,” Neugebauer said previously in a written statement. “Perhaps, more than any other Washington agency, the CFPB has demonstrated a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability. It has proven it is susceptible to political influence — bringing into question its independence.”

Written by Emily Study

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