In a swamp of professional bureaucrats, Republicans are ready to drain one government agency of its critters: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). “A battle is intensifying over the future of [CFPB Director] Richard Cordray,” The Wall Street Journal writes.
It’s welcome news to those of us fighting against discrimination at an agency that Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyTrump pushing ex-Rep. Duffy to run for Wisconsin governor Fox News signs book deal with HarperCollins First lady's press secretary calls on Rachel Campos Duffy, Fox News to apologize for host's comments MORE (R-Wis.) has declared is “riddled with allegations of discrimination based on an employee’s race, their age, gender, and now sexual orientation.” Under Cordray, the CFPB has become a breeding ground for structural inequality, where federal employees are treated differently based on immutable qualities despite the (ironic) fact that the agency vows to “outlaw discrimination in consumer finance.”
According to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) survey, 25 percent of black, Asian, and female employees of the CFPB claim that “they had been discriminated against at the CFPB.” A quarter of black employees and 20 percent of Hispanic employees believe that racial “differences” are not respected or valued by agency brass. Even worse, “dissatisfaction was above 35 percent in some CFPB offices and demographic groups.”
Personal testimonials show why. Kevin Williams, the CFPB Office of Consumer Response’s first Quality Assurance Monitor, told Congress a damning story in 2014: “My experience at the CFPB was reminiscent of past eras of injustice, cronyism, discrimination, and retaliation. The events that transpired at the bureau occurred because basic measures were not in place to properly supervise its untested management.” He went on: “I was a charter member in the Intake unit, which, indeed, came to be referred to as the ‘Plantation.’ There, I personally witnessed and was the victim of racial discrimination perpetrated by black as well as white managers. The unit was dubbed the Plantation because when we started, the majority of black employees were assigned to Intake, which was basically data entry.”
Ali Naraghi, a Persian bank examiner at the agency, backs up Williams’ claims: "I am the naturalized U.S. citizen that bureau management referred to as an 'f***ing foreigner.'" Senior Enforcement Attorney Angela Martin has also alluded to “alarming stories of maltreatment,” claiming that a supervisor threatened to retaliate against her with counterclaims after she filed a complaint to human resources.
The claims are anything but baseless. An American Banker study revealed that “CFPB managers show a pattern of ranking white employees distinctly better than minorities in performance reviews used to grant raises and issue bonuses.” In one year, whites were twice as likely to receive the agency’s top grade as were African-American or Hispanic employees. In another year, CFPB employees filed a total of 125 informal grievances against the agency—roughly one for every 10 employees.
It points to—in Naraghi’s words—a “culture of…mistreatment, mismanagement, and abuse of authority.” As one outside investigator hired by the CFPB called it, the agency has created a “toxic workplace” for its employees.
And it all happened under Cordray’s watch. Taking office in 2012, the CFPB director has done little to address the rampant discrimination plaguing his agency—despite face-saving claims to the contrary.
It’s not to say that the CFPB is blameless in other regards. The agency routinely oversteps its bounds to target financial services—including mortgages, credit cards, loan servicing, check guaranteeing, and payday loans—with burdensome rules and mandates that ultimately hurt consumers, while sidestepping Congress and engaging in blatant partisanship. But the agency’s legacy of discrimination is a black mark on the federal government’s reputation writ large.
After Inauguration Day, Richard Cordray deserves a simple message: “You’re fired!”
Gregory T. Angelo is the President of Log Cabin Republicans, the country's premier organization representing LGBT conservatives and straight allies.
The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.