CFPB whistleblower testifies about widespread discrimination at consumer agency
|By Richard Pollock; Richard Pollock, Senior Watchdog Reporter|
Rare bipartisanship blossomed at a
At the center of the hearing was whistleblower
In her testimony Wednesday before the Financial Services subcommittee on oversight and investigations, Martin described an agency where "there is a pervasive culture of retaliation and intimidation that silences employees and chills the workforce."
Martin related acts of abuse and discrimination against women and minorities that continued up to the morning of the hearing, when she said she received a call for help from a distraught African- American woman who worked at the bureau.
Martin alleged that women, African-Americans, Hispanics and even naturalized American citizens suffered from the acts of a group of white managers who had created a hostile work environment.
In addition to personal abuse, she said women and minorities at
In her own Consumer Response unit, Martin said there was an exodus of women and African-Americans, only to be replaced by white males who were "cronies" of
"If you're a black in Consumer Response, most of the managers are white male. Women have left. They have been replaced by white males," she told lawmakers. "Anybody who has left that office is a woman or a minority."
The whistleblower testified that
"African-Americans tell me it is extremely hard to leave the Plantation," Martin said. "You must be extremely savvy or you must be having somebody else to get you out," she claimed.
"You cannot say education is a factor because there are licensed attorneys working there. There are [people with] master's degrees there," Martin said.
"So what you have in the performance evaluations are the white males in power in better spots, giving themselves the (top) 4's or 5's, giving themselves the raises and bonuses. And (with) the minorities," she said, "there's a widening of the gap."
Waters was obviously moved by Martin's testimony. She stunned the committee by refusing to ask Martin any questions, telling McHenry, "I'd like to yield back the balance of my time to Ms. Martin so she can just continue talking to us.
"The kind of racism you described, the way you described this so plainly and so openly and the words that you used, it's commendable," Waters told Martin.
"The fact that you're going to provide some leadership on this just does my heart so good. I'm so appreciative," the Democratic lawmaker told McHenry.
Bipartisan unity on the issue may spell serious problems for the relatively new agency, which was formed in part to attack discrimination against minorities in financial matters.
Last December, for example,
That same month the agency also said it would require
So far, Democrats have stoutly defended the bureau. But if the charges of widespread discrimination at
Martin told the committee that on the evening of
A congressional source confirmed to the Washington Examiner that Cordray placed the call to Martin on
Martin initially filed a complaint of discrimination and retaliation in
Joining Martin at the hearing was
Raucci agreed with the whistleblower's assessment, saying there was a "toxic workplace" environment.
"I found that the general environment in Consumer Response is one of exclusion, retaliation, discrimination, nepotism, demoralization, devaluation, and other offensive working conditions which constitute a toxic workplace for many of its employees," she told the subcommittee.
Raucci said since taking on the Martin case, she has been a "hotline" for at least a dozen unhappy
Martin herself said "scores" of
Waters and other Democrats on the committee have officially asked the
She said she had received a call night before the hearing from a
Martin said "managers refer to him in an open meeting as [a] 'f-- -ing foreigner.' This is unacceptable. He should not be going through this."
In another example of low morale among minorities she said, "In December, I saw another female crying in her office, suffering from the same abuses that I myself was experiencing. I said this has to end," she told the lawmakers.
Since last August CFPB employees have filed 115 official grievances with the
The number exceeds 200 grievances if informal complaints are counted.
Confidential data obtained by American Banker also shows that
Overall, whites were twice as likely in 2013 to receive the agency's top grade than African-Americans and Hispanics.
"If it was a lender and had similar statistics, it would be written up, immediately referred to the
Martin said she fully supported the bureau's mission to regulate consumer finance.
"Instead they were committing unfair and deceptive practices against their employees."
Martin continues to work at
In a statement sent to the Examiner following the hearing, Cordray said, "I take seriously the concerns raised at [Wednesday's] hearing and deeply apologize to any member of the
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