WASHINGTON A top House Financial Services Committee lawmaker said Thursday that he will subpoena Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officials if they again refuse to testify about allegations of employee discrimination and retaliation.
In a letter to CFPB Director Richard Cordray, Rep. Patrick McHenry, chairman of the House oversight and investigations subcommittee, said that he is planning to hold more hearings on the issue, and he expects agency officials to be present to answer questions posed by panel members.
"Please provide written assurances that you will authorize any CFPB employee to appear and testify pursuant to the subcommittee's invitation," McHenry wrote. "If you cannot provide such assurances, the testimony of CFPB employees will be compelled by the issuance of a subpoena."
McHenry gave the CFPB until April 15 to respond. A CFPB spokesman said the agency had received the letter and was reviewing it. Cordray has previously said he would testify on broader concerns about issues facing employees at the agency.
The letter follows a subcommittee hearing last week in which lawmakers heard from a CFPB employee and an independent investigator about claims of a "hostile" work environment and retaliation by management when employees filed complaints.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed that further investigation was needed after the CFPB declined to allow two officials that the subcommittee specifically requested to testify on grounds that it would interfere with the agency's internal grievance process.
Before the hearing, House Democrats raised fears that it would focus solely on the case of Angela Martin, a senior enforcement attorney who agreed to testify. They called on McHenry and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling to scrap the hearing, saying it was inappropriate for Congress to weigh in on a single case.
But the hearing held April 2 was broader than just Martin's case, as lawmakers probed whether the agency had a systemic problem.
McHenry and Hensarling sent a separate letter Thursday to the top House Financial Services Democrats saying they would continue to request individual CFPB officials to testify and compel them if necessary.
"We do not intend to disqualify from the scope of our inquiry any witnesses, whether a senior official or not, whether involved in an ongoing complaint or note," McHenry and Hensarling wrote in the letter. "To the contrary, we intend to continue to invite CFPB employees from additional whistleblowers to 'senior officials' with knowledge of the bureau's alleged malfeasance to Director Cordray himself to testify at our ongoing hearings on this topic. ... We hope for and expect your cooperation as we move forward."
The letter was sent to Reps. Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, and Al Green, the ranking member of the oversight and investigations subcommittee.
Both Democrats have said the committee should continue to look at the CFPB, but broaden the scope of its investigation to include the other federal banking agencies. They have suggested the panel should refrain from calling employees to testify who are involved in an ongoing employee complaint.
But McHenry and Hensarling said that could theoretically include Cordray himself, since Martin claimed that he personally intervened in her case.
The hearing was sparked by a story in American Banker on March 6 that detailed racial disparities among the CFPB's confidential employee evaluation process. The article also discussed a number of grievances filed by employees during the past several months, including allegations of a hostile work environment.