House GOP: We're willing to subpoena CFPB

Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee are prepared to subpoena top officials at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if they refuse to testify on workplace issues at the regulator.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) told CFPB Director Richard Cordray Thursday that the panel will be holding additional hearings on claims of discrimination and retaliation among CFPB employees, and demanded a written agreement that any CFPB employee will be permitted to testify on the matter.

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“If you cannot provide such assurances, the testimony of CFPB employees will be compelled by the issuance of a subpoena,” he added.

McHenry chairs the committee’s oversight subcommittee, which held a hearing earlier this month to hear claims from one CFPB attorney who alleged she was discriminated against by managers, and punished when she complained.

Two top CFPB officials overseeing personnel matters were invited to testify at the same hearing. But the bureau refused to send them, citing its investigation into the matter and confidentiality requirements.

In a separate letter, Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) told top Democrats on the committee that Republicans would continue to seek testimony from any official at the agency, and was prepared to force them to testify if necessary.

Democrats had requested the committee hold a second hearing on matters at the CFPB but refrain from inviting witnesses still involved in ongoing complaints or grievance resolutions. Hensarling said he would not do so.

“We do not intend to disqualify from the scope of our inquiry any witness, whether a senior official or not, whether involved in an ongoing complaint or not,” he wrote in the letter, co-signed by McHenry. “We will not honor a request to limit the scope of a legitimate, necessary and apparently bipartisan congressional inquiry in deference to an agency process that is alleged to be a vehicle of retaliation at the CFPB.”

The consumer agency, created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, has come under fire amid claims that minority employees regularly received lower evaluation scores than white ones. Angela Martin, the CFPB attorney who testified before the panel, claimed that a number of employees have significant complaints about employee management there, and that several employees were discriminated against or unfairly punished.

After that hearing, Cordray issued a statement saying he took her claims seriously and would welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter with lawmakers.

“I take seriously the concerns raised at today’s hearing and deeply apologize to any member of the CFPB staff who feels that they have not been heard or treated fairly,” he said.