Cordray: CFPB Performance Reviews Unfair
CFPB Director Richard Cordray told a congressional subcommittee on Wednesday the bureau’s performance review system has been unfair to certain employees.
He said the CFPB must focus on improving its culture to foster diversity.
Cordray refrained from addressing the specific allegations of discrimination and retaliation detailed by former and current CFPB employees before the House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. However, he did discuss changes made to the bureau's performance review process.
“After we had completed the second year of performance reviews, we began to analyze the numbers in more detail, and we found that many different categories of employees were seeming to be treated unevenly,” Cordray said at the subcommittee hearing.
“Whether the distinction was headquarters versus field, or one part of the bureau versus another, or bargaining unit versus non-bargaining unit employees, or other categories like age and race, we perceived that the review system was creating differential outcomes that indicated the system was unsatisfactory and not working out as intended. Notably, about all of our employee grievances filed to date have concerned performance reviews,” he added.
To date, 32 CFPB employees have come forward with grievances related to discrimination, according to subcommittee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).
McHenry along with Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Chairman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) requested a GAO investigation of the CFPB’s management practices.
“These 32 brave leaders have come forward to do what is right: to protect their colleagues who suffer, and they have stood up even in the face of retribution from their managers if they are found out,” McHenry said. “Shortly, all CFPB employees will have an opportunity to confidentially share all of their concerns with the Government Accountability Office.”
Cordray, who requested the hearing, said the CFPB is going to use a new two-level performance review system for the next two fiscal years. The bureau has also agreed to join a working group with the CFPB’s union to design another system for the future.
“We also announced that we would adjust prior performance-related compensation for the two years during which our employees may have been adversely affected by the flaws in the prior system,” he said. “By self-correcting and self-remediating disparities in our performance ratings, we are holding ourselves to the same standards of fairness that we expect from the financial industries we oversee.”
CFPB employee Angela Martin claimed CFPB managers were engaging in racial and gender discrimination in her previous testimony before the subcommittee.
“I immediately became one of the targets of my Regional Director Mr. Jim Carley, and the Assistant Director of Supervision Mr. Paul Sanford at CFPB Headquarters, as a result of questioning examination management and filing a formal case about abuse and disparate treatment,” he said. “They proceeded to make my professional and personal life a living hell by repeated retaliation and creating a hostile work environment.”
Cordray refused to address any individual allegations in his opening statement. However, he acknowledged that the lack of management training when the CFPB first opened has contributed to the problems experienced by some employees.
“Public discussion of these individual matters may have a chilling effect that prejudices individual rights and undermines the integrity of the legal process,” Cordray said.
“Although the Bureau has had good diversity numbers around hiring and contracting, we need to focus more consciously on how to improve our culture, so that diversity and inclusion are more deeply ingrained in our everyday work life,” he also said.
Under questioning from Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), Cordray was asked if it was appropriate to directly call Martin, who was being represented by counsel, on the evening of August 7.
“It was a continuation of prior discussions, some of which she initiated with me,” Cordray responded.
During the phone conversation, Duffy said Corday asked Martin to tell her attorneys to stand down, according to e-mail records.