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U.S. consumer watchdog defends plan to skip House discrimination hearing
March 28, 2014 / 9:12 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. consumer watchdog defends plan to skip House discrimination hearing

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) - U.S. consumer watchdog on Friday defended its decision not to attend a hearing next week on allegations of discrimination, and it criticized an outside investigator’s report.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offered to brief a U.S. House of Representatives panel in private rather than appear at a hearing on April 2 that will feature a bureau employee who says she faced discrimination because of her gender, a spokesman said.

“The bureau cannot participate in a public hearing that politicizes our employee grievance process,” bureau spokesman Sam Gilford said in a statement on Friday.

Representative Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican and the head of the House panel, said a public forum was necessary to protect CFPB employees from discrimination, in a letter dated March 21 and viewed by Reuters on Friday.

The ongoing dispute stems from a recent report in the American Banker, a trade publication, that cited bureau documents showing managers at the agency rated employees differently based on race and gender.

Lawmakers from both political parties have called on the CFPB, which polices consumer financial products, to improve its practices and asked other financial regulators for information on their diversity efforts.

The House Financial Services Committee has called a hearing on the issue. The panel, which is led by Republicans, has long been critical of the consumer bureau, which they say has too much authority over financial products.

On Thursday, the committee’s oversight panel said its hearing would feature a CFPB attorney who said she experienced gender discrimination and was retaliated against when she filed a formal complaint about her situation.

Misty Raucci, a former investigator with Defense Investigators Group who looked into the matter at the request of the CFPB, plans to tell the panel that the attorney, Angela Martin, was demoted and her work criticized after she filed the complaint, according to prepared remarks viewed by Reuters.

Gilford said the CFPB found Raucci’s report on the situation invalid because it was based on anonymous sources and because the subjects of the probe did not have a chance to respond to allegations made against them.

The House panel asked the bureau’s director of employee relations and head of its equal employment office to appear at the April 2 hearing. Gilford said the bureau did not think it was appropriate to discuss in public a case that involved other employees and was still in the grievance process.

He said the bureau instead offered to have the head of its minority and women inclusion office attend the hearing to discuss diversity issues more broadly.

Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for the committee, said the officials the panel invited were the most knowledgeable about the subject of the hearing. (Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Ken Wills)

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