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GAO Blasts CFPB for Continued Workplace Discrimination

Phil Hall
Jun 21, 2016
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has levied a $1.75 million civil penalty against Coppell, Texas-based Nationstar Mortgage LLC

A new report by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) has harshly criticized the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for maintaining a hostile working environment that many agency employees consider to be run by managers that are discriminatory and vengeful.

In a report titled “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Additional Actions Needed to Support a Fair and Inclusive Workplace,” the GAO noted that many CFPB employees surveyed feared speaking out about problems in their workplace out of fear of repercussions.

“[The] GAO's survey found heightened concerns related to fair treatment, trust that employees can raise concerns without fear of reprisal, confidence in complaint processes, and other matters,” the report stated. “For survey items on these issues, more than 25 percent of respondents Bureau-wide had unfavorable views, and dissatisfaction was above 35 percent in some CFPB offices and demographic groups. For example, about one-third of respondents disagreed with the statement that success at CFPB is based more on merit than on personal connections or favoritism. Disagreement was 40 percent or more for a few offices that focus on examining institutions and among black respondents.”

For the last three years, the CFPB has weathered accusations of racial, gender and age-based discrimination within its employee base. While the GAO acknowledged that the CFPB has made some efforts to combat this issue—including changes in management training and worker performance ratings—the agency is far from resolving these long-simmering problems.

“CFPB's diversity, inclusion, fairness, and culture efforts represent a significant change management initiative, but CFPB does not comprehensively report on its implementation goals and progress across these efforts,” the GAO report stated.”CFPB has created some feedback mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of its equal employment opportunity complaint process, but has not done the same for its employee grievance processes.”

The GAO also called out CFPB Director Richard Cordray to show leadership in dealing with this matter. Previously, Cordray has significantly downplayed the subject of employee complaints during congressional hearings.

“In order to ensure sustained leadership commitment to and accountability for CFPB's efforts to promote a diverse, inclusive, and fair workplace, the director should develop and implement a strategy for comprehensively reporting on the bureau's implementation goals and progress on its range of initiatives related to promoting diversity, inclusion, fairness, and a stronger organizational culture,” the GAO said.

The GAO added that it has recommended that the CFPB develop a strategy for reporting on progress and create feedback tools on its grievance processes in coordination with its employee union. Although the GAO said the CFPB concurred with these recommendations, the agency itself made no acknowledgment of the report on its Web site.

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