Subpoenaed CFPB officials to testify on discrimination claims

Subpoenaed officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will testify before a House panel Wednesday against accusations the agency is a discriminatory environment for some employees.

The House Financial Services Committee announced Thursday that its investigative subcommittee would hear testimony from two CFPB managers the agency previously refused to make available to answer questions.

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The subcommittee unanimously agreed to subpoena the officials in April, compelling them to answer questions about the work environment at the watchdog.

M. Stacey Bach, the assistant director of the office of equal opportunity employment, and Liza Strong, director of employee relations, will both testify before lawmakers Wednesday, along with Benjamin Konop, the executive vice president of the National Treasury Employees Union, who also refused to testify beforehand.

A committee spokesman confirmed the three were expected to comply with the subpoenas and appear before the panel.

The inquiry into a hostile work environment at the agency began after an enforcement attorney there, Angela Martin, charged that CFPB managers discriminated against her, and isolated her after she complained. She said there were dozens of other employees with similar horror stories.

The CFPB refused to send Bach and Strong to testify at that hearing, citing their own investigation of such complaints.

Following Martin’s testimony, CFPB Director Richard Cordray said he took her complaints seriously and would welcome the opportunity to discuss them with lawmakers.

While the CFPB has long been a target for criticism from Republicans, allegations of discrimination received bipartisan concern. Democrats were eager to examine any claims of discrimination at a government agency and have pushed to expand the debate to include all financial regulators under the committee’s jurisdiction.

Republicans have not necessarily embraced the idea of going further with other agencies, but they have insisted that their opposition to the bureau does not motivate their scrutiny of the CFPB’s workplace in general.

But it is clear that Republicans will continue trying to tweak the CFPB’s operations going forward. After CFPB officials testify on workplace matters Wednesday, a separate subcommittee will spend the afternoon debating “legislation regarding regulatory relief and accountability reforms at the CFPB.”