U.S. consumer bureau details diversity efforts after complaints

WASHINGTON Fri Apr 4, 2014 4:30pm EDT

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray answers questions at the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, October 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray answers questions at the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, October 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. consumer financial watchdog plans to ramp up diversity training and is teaching hiring managers to spot unconscious biases, the agency said in a report on Friday amid concerns over its treatment of women and minority employees.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said in its annual diversity report to Congress that officials took seriously recent revelations of racial disparities in employees' performance ratings and other complaints of unfair treatment.

Officials hired new employees rapidly after the CFPB was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. Now bureau leaders want to attract a more diverse applicant pool and focus on creating a consistent, inclusive culture, the CFPB said.

The report follows the publication of internal CFPB data, first reported by the American Banker newspaper, showing the bureau's white employees were twice as likely to receive a top performance rating in 2013 than African-American or Hispanic employees.

"It has become clear that there are opportunities to strengthen our two-year old performance management system," Stuart Ishimaru, the head of the bureau's Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, said in the report.

"There is growing recognition of the need to manage diversity effectively to ensure that the workplace is hospitable and inclusive for everyone."

The watchdog has had a rocky start since it opened in 2011. Congressional Republicans sought to curtail its broad authority over consumer financial products and replace its director with a bipartisan board.

Those complaints have grown less since lawmakers confirmed Richard Cordray last year to run the bureau. Scrutiny from both parties now centers on the agency's diversity and inclusion efforts.

After the racial disparities in employee ratings came to light, a CFPB attorney told a U.S. House of Representatives committee she had faced gender discrimination at the bureau and was retaliated against after she filed a formal complaint.

Lawmakers from both parties have called on the consumer bureau to take a hard look at how it treats women and minorities. Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, has asked for personnel data from all of the financial regulatory agencies.

Women made up 46 percent of the bureau's workforce in 2013 and minorities were 31 percent, according to the report, which is required each year by the Dodd-Frank law. Both groups are somewhat underrepresented in senior leadership roles.

That is fairly consistent with findings in diversity reports published this week for other federal financial agencies such as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

CFPB officials are working with their employees' union to restructure the ratings system and have brought in an outside firm to determine how the previous system may have affected employees. The Office of Minority and Women Inclusion plans to form a committee to support diversity efforts, the report said.

(Reporting by Emily Stephenson; editing by Andrew Hay)

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