CFPB Labor Relations Leader Disputes Allegations
Liza Strong, lead of labor and employee relations at the CFPB, told a congressional committee that she has not witnessed any CFPB manager discriminate against CFPB employee Angela Martin.
“I have never witnessed management be anything but professional and accommodating to her,” said Strong in her testimony on Wednesday. “I was surprised when, during the April 2 hearing, it was alleged that I attempted to influence Defense Investigators Group’s conclusions. I have never done that and in fact, the allegation does not make sense. Had I wanted to pre-determine the outcome of the investigation, I would not have outsourced it.”
Martin testified that CFPB managers have engaged in racial and gender discrimination. Misty Raucci, former independent investigator with DIG, corroborated Martin’s allegations.
“The mismanagement and abuse of authority have precluded me from doing my part to carry out the bureau’s important mission. Indeed, today marks the 400th day that I have been isolated and prevented from performing any meaningful work,” she said in her testimony. “I never received a fair shake at the bureau, and I have not been assigned one case or enforcement matter during my entire tenure.”
Strong said Raucci’s investigation did not meet minimal standards, claiming she failed to get signed statements from the people she interviewed. Strong also said Raucci did not provide significant documentation to support her conclusions.
A report commissioned by the CFPB at the request of the National Treasury Employees Union and conducted by Deloitte Consulting in September 2013 found a pattern of white employees at the CFPB being ranked higher than minorities in performance reviews. Benjamin Konop, EVP of the National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 335, told the committee the union had voiced concerns about the performance review system at the CFPB.
“While the chapter was raising PMR issues through grievances and bargaining, we also pursued approximately 15 pay equity grievances. In these filings, we alleged that women and minority employees were being underpaid when compared to similarly situated white male colleagues,” Konop testified.
“To date, the bureau has denied each of these grievances at all stages, often using inconsistent reasoning, despite what I feel is convincing evidence of low pay for numerous women and minority workers,” he added.
Strong said she did not read the Deloitte Consulting report and was not aware of its findings until the day of the hearing.
“I have not seen this report before,” Strong told the committee.
In her opening statement, Strong said, “Although I have not been involved in the bureau’s assessment of the data, I am aware that the bureau was analyzing the performance review information for signs of disparate impact even before the American Banker published the story.”
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) pointed out that a CFPB spokesperson claimed CFPB staff was fully analyzing the data in the report.
“So a report is out there for eight months about these issues, and nothing is even done until an American Banker’s article goes public some five months later talking about this issue,” Wagner said.
“Your spokesperson says that you all took this report and proactively engaged the labor union after full analysis and information had been presented and you’re not aware of this?” she asked.
“I’m not,” Strong responded. “Maybe what she is referring to is the director asked Stuart Ishimaru, the head of the OMWI office to conduct listening sessions.”
Strong also disagreed that managers have shown different patterns in performance reviews based on race.
“Not based on my observations,” she told Wagner.
Konop told the committee the situation at the CFPB is improving.
“In the last several weeks, however, there does appear to be recognition by management that we ought to be doing better as a bureau,” he said in his testimony. “For example, we recently reached a tentative agreement on a new PMR system that, in large part, accepts the union’s proposal and scraps the system that yielded the disparities.”