CFPB Official Downplays Congressional Investigation
A CFPB manager called a congressional investigation into discrimination allegations at the agency “political theater” that would eventually go away, according to an internal meeting transcript that was referenced at a congressional subcommittee hearing.
In a series of House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee hearings, former and current CFPB employees, including Senior Enforcement Attorney Angela Martin, claimed managers at the agency engaged in racial and gender discrimination.
A CFPB internal report showed that the bureau ranked Caucasian employees higher on performance evalutions than employees of minority races.
Scott Pluta, the assistant director for the CFPB’s Office of Consumer Response and Martin’s supervisor at the time, called a mandatory meeting for members of his department two days before Martin’s testimony.
“This is a great place. This is a great building. These are great people. If I never do another thing in my life, I will have helped build this. I am very proud of that. So don’t worry about me. I am fine. I can move back to Wisconsin,” said Pluta, according to the transcript of the March 31 meeting obtained by CU Times.
“I can find some nice Midwestern lady, raise some little football players (and) watch the Packers. Uh so I’ll be fine. What I really care about is some of the unintended consequences of this political theater that is going on,” he added.
According to the transcript, Pluta said employees are going to lose confidence in the EEO process due to the investigation.
“I will tell you something that really pisses me off about this article is that people who want to avail themselves of that very fundamental right are going to think twice if they step forward,” said Pluta, referring to a March 6 American Banker article, which revealed significant disparities in employee performance ratings.
Pluta told employees at the meeting that the CFPB is not perfect.
“We will always have some sort of issues here in Consumer Response, in the bureau, in this city, in this world. That is just the way it is. The question is how do you address them? Do you actually have the will to make it better?” Pluta said.
“I am committed, I have the will, to address issues that folks have with working here. I want everyone to be happy. I want everyone to be productive,” he added.
Pluta then predicted that the congressional investigation would eventually go away.
“Last year there were 97 some odd thousand EEO complaints filed in the U.S. Only one has resulted in a congressional hearing – the one happening on Wednesday,” Pluta said.
“It is an unfortunate event but it is just an event. This too shall pass, a week from now, a month from now, months from now, a year from now, it will eventually be in the ether but it will pass,” he added.
A former CFPB employee, who asked not to be identified, confirmed the meeting took place. According to the source, several employees who attended the meeting reviewed the transcript and said it was an accurate representation of the meeting.
Two Capitol Hill sources who also asked not to be identified confirmed the transcript was the one referenced during the hearings.
“There is a pervasive culture of retaliation and intimidation that silences employees and chills the workforce from exposing wrongdoing. Just two weeks ago, I learned of another employee who was retaliated against within two days of filing a formal EEO complaint,” Martin said during her testimony. Martin filed her EEO complaint in February of 2013.
She relocated to Sanford, N.C. as part of a settlement with the CFPB, Washington Examiner reported June 13.
Read more: Employee performance statistics show a racial bias ...
According to a March 21 internal CFPB report, 65 employees have filed complaints over performance reviews, including 30 men and 35 women. According to the report, 38 of the employees were Caucasian and 17 were black.
The employee performance rating system in 2013 was ranked on a scale of one to five, as shown in the graph at left. (Click on the graph to expand.) Out of 1,173 employees reviewed, the report said, 17.4% received a five on their performance reviews. When broken down by race, 20.7% of Caucasians received a five rating, compared to 10.5% of black employees that received a five rating.
Conversely, 28.8% of all employees received a rating of three, a less satisfactory rating. Analyzed by race, 24.4% of Caucasian employees received three ratings, while 42.4% of black employees received a three.
Hispanic and Asian employees also received fewer five ratings and more three ratings than Caucasian employees, the report said.
A CFPB spokesman said the bureau would not comment on Pluta’s comments, and referred CU Times to Director Richard Cordray’s July 30 congressional hearing where he was questioned about the meeting.
“I’m not specifically aware of all the meetings that go on at the bureau, including that one,” Cordray told Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who described the meeting as a pep rally.
Fitzpatrick asked Cordray if he agreed with Pluta’s characterization of the subcommittee’s efforts as political theater.
“I would hope that would not be the nature of congressional oversight,” Cordray responded.
Fitzpatrick asked Cordray again if he agreed with Pluta’s assessment.
“I would hope that would not be the nature of congressional oversight,” Cordray repeated.
According to the transcript, a CFPB employee at the meeting asked Pluta if he was going to testify at the hearing.
“I’ll sit there for eight hours. I will defend my record. I will tell you about the team I have. I will tell you about the work I do. I will tell you what I did and what I didn’t do. I will tell you what type of person I am,” he said.
“Ultimately, I think it will not come to pass. My guess is the individuals who constructed Wednesday’s event would prefer to keep certain things in play such that dissenting voices aren’t there. That is life. So this will be something that will live on the internet forever. That’s fine. I’ll be fine,” he added.
Christopher Johnson, deputy assistant director at the Office of Consumer Response, also spoke at the meeting, and according to the transcript, praised Pluta.
“A lot of people wanted to brush this under the rug. The article came out (and) they hid in their cave. They are able to make their six-figure salary; they wanted to brush this under the rug,” he said. “This guy did not do that. He stepped into the fire. He called the entire team in the office. We’re the most diverse team in the bureau.”
According to his LinkedIn profile, Pluta previously worked for President Obama’s campaign as a voter protection coordinator. His duties included assistance in building, running and participating in voter protection programs in South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania and Indiana.
Following the 2008 election, Pluta was appointed by the Obama Administration to serve as legal counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, where he worked for a year and a half before joining the CFPB in 2010.
According to the Asbury Park Press federal pay database, the CFPB paid Pluta a base salary of $175,000 in 2012 plus a $7,700 bonus.