JIM HENRY

Inquiry into alleged CFPB bias picks up steam

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News.

The issue of whether, ironically, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau allegedly discriminates against its own employees has got legs.

A subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee heard really scorching -- but totally one-sided -- testimony in a hearing earlier this month from Angela Martin, an attorney who works at the CFPB, accusing the CFPB of a “culture of retaliation and intimidation.” CFPB officials were invited to testify, but none did so.

The committee chairman, Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), is no fan of the CFPB. Prior to that hearing, he had repeatedly criticized the bureau for refusing to answer questions from Congress in sufficient detail about how the CFPB determines whether lenders are guilty of discrimination in auto loans.

In the hearing on April 2, he told Martin: “We will fight not to let you and the other employees down.”

Without referring to the specifics, in public appearances CFPB Director Richard Cordray has acknowledged the issue and promised to do better.

“Increasingly, we are focused on achieving diversity and inclusion not only in hiring and contracting, but also in matters of our culture and the career development of our colleagues. Issues have arisen within the Bureau that bring these considerations into sharp relief, and we are determined to address them appropriately to make sure our own employees are being treated fairly, just as we insist that financial institutions must treat consumers fairly,” Cordray said in prepared remarks for an April 4 speech.

The exact nature of Martin’s claim against the CFPB did not come out at the hearing, although it may have been spelled out elsewhere. But the committee made it clear that it intends to support her and get to the bottom of the problem.

This issue will be around a while.

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com

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