WASHINGTON Top Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee are asking several watchdog agencies to provide more information about federal regulators' employment policies and practices with regard to minorities and women.
Nine members of the panel signed joint letters March 24 to the inspectors general of several financial regulators and the Treasury Department asking them to look into the issue.
The letters come in response to an article by American Banker on March 6 that showed white employees had a greater likelihood of receiving the highest performance rating than minorities at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Democrats are also seeking the Federal Reserve Board's inspector general (which also oversees the CFPB), to look into the consumer bureau's performance appraisal process and how its Office of Minority and Women Inclusion has been involved in that process.
"We request that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) immediately exercise its independent oversight authority over the bureau's operations, to detect whether any personnel practices and policies have created an unfair or discriminatory workplace for minorities and women employed at the CFPB," states the letter sent to Inspector General Mark Bialek of the Federal Reserve, which was released Wednesday. "Allegations of discriminatory behavior at the bureau, in perception or practice, must be investigated thoroughly to ensure that no individual, coalition or group of individuals undermines the agency's vital mission of ensuring the fair and equitable treatment of consumers from all backgrounds."
The letters were signed by Reps. Maxine Waters, the Financial Services Committee's top Democrat; Al Green, D-Texas; Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.; Emanual Cleaver, D-Mo.; Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo.; John K. Delaney, D-Md.; Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio; and Denny Heck, D-Wash.
In the last two weeks, the CFPB has said it is changing its performance review process and is hiring a consultant to help in the efforts. CFPB Director Richard Cordray has sent several letters to employees encouraging them to be more open within the agency and released the performance review data to all staff on March 21.
"We welcome this oversight and will be pleased to cooperate fully," said Jen Howard, a CFPB spokeswoman, in an emailed response.
The letters sent to the inspectors general of the remaining agencies including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission generally ask them to review personnel practices for any signs of discrimination or that "otherwise systemically disadvantaged minorities from obtaining senior management positions."
The letter cites a report released last year by the Government Accountability Office that said there was little change in the representation of women and minorities at management level positions from 2007 to 2011 among federal financial agencies and Federal Reserve banks.
"In light of these findings and the concerns raised by employee performance evaluations at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we believe the OIG should work in cooperation with" the director of each agency's Office of Minority and Women Inclusion "to assess current personnel practices and make recommendations necessary to ensure full compliance with the law," the letters state.
In response to the letter, the Treasury inspector general's office said in an email to American Banker that it is "carefully reviewing the members' request and will respond to them as soon as possible."
American Banker reached out to all of the agencies named in the letters. The remaining agencies either have yet to respond or declined to respond.
Separately on Wednesday, the House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee announced a hearing April 2 to look into the CFPB's performance evaluation process and complaints filed by employees. All of the Democrats who signed the letters are members of this subcommittee.