| WASHINGTON, July 2
WASHINGTON, July 2 The U.S. consumer protection
regulator's multi-million dollar facelift to its rented
Washington headquarters lacks proper documentation, a government
watchdog said, igniting renewed criticism by Republicans who
want the agency overhauled.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has also failed to
follow its own guidelines and analyze other options, the Federal
Reserve's inspector general said in a report released publicly
"As of June 23, 2014, the CFPB was unable to locate any
documentation of the decision to fully renovate the building,"
Fed Inspector General Mark Bialek wrote in the June 30 report,
which was conducted at the request of Republican lawmakers.
The CFPB is trying to locate the documents, he said, but so
far it appears that "a sound business case is not available to
support the funding of the renovation."
The bureau leases an office building at 1700 G Street NW in
Washington that is owned by the Office of the Comptroller of the
Currency and is close to the White House.
Bialek said the renovation costs are still estimated at $145
million. But the CFPB is leasing temporary space off-site, which
could bump up costs to $215.8 million.
CFPB spokeswoman Jen Howard defended the project, saying the
building is a "government asset that is past its prime" and that
the bureau has been "open and transparent" about the cost
The decision to renovate was made in 2011, when the CFPB was
still part of the U.S. Treasury and not independent, so
alternatives were not considered, she added.
A spokeswoman for the General Services Administration, which
is managing the CFPB project, said the costs are in line with
those of "similar projects of this size and scope" that the GSA
has completed in recent years. She added that the building has
not undergone significant upgrades since 1976.
North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry, who chairs the
U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services panel that
requested the report, said the findings are "deeply troubling
and lead to even more questions about the unaccountable design
of the CFPB."
The CFPB, headed by Richard Cordray, was created by the 2010
Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law to protect consumers from
predatory lending in products such as student loans and credit
Republicans have fought unsuccessfully to convert the CFPB
from an agency with a single director into a five-member
bipartisan panel. They also want control over its budget, which
is not appropriated by Congress.
Other financial regulators have also been criticized in
recent years over office space costs.
In March, the Fed watchdog found that the Fed's renovation
of its Martin building had missed opportunities to improve
record-keeping, cost estimates and cost management, and lacked
In June, the watchdog at the Commodity Futures Trading
Commission accused the regulator of wasting millions on leasing
vacant office space. And in 2011, the SEC was criticized over
numerous errors it made in securing a lease for additional
900,000 square feet of office space.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Richard Chang)