Posted by Staff on November 10, 2014
On Thursday at 10:00 a.m. the Full Committee will hold a hearing to examine terrorist financing and the Islamic State.
Posted by Staff on October 30, 2014
HORROR! SHOCK! DEVASTATION! Top-down regulations from Washington make it harder to have a growing economy on Main Street that creates good jobs. Yet each year Washington churns out page after page of new regulations, rules and red tape in the Federal Register. It’s become a MONSTER terrorizing Main Street! See for yourself…IF YOU DARE! #HappyHalloween
"It is time for all to take off partisan blinders and acknowledge the truth that Washington regulators aren’t always right and more red tape is not always the solution to every problem. It is time to hold Washington accountable." - Chairman Jeb Hensarling
Posted by Staff on October 20, 2014
Below are excerpts from the Wall Street Journal’s “Weekend Interview” with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). The entire interview can be found here.
Hensarling on the Export-Import Bank
Posted by on October 02, 2014
Although this week’s Jeopardy! contestants couldn’t name the agency, the unaccountable CFPB is certainly making a name for itself in all the wrong ways.
Posted by Staff on September 29, 2014
President Obama recently voiced concerns about the negative impact of “endless regulations” in foreign countries. Millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans must be wondering why he isn’t as concerned about the economic harm caused by the “endless regulations” of his own administration here in the U.S.A.
While the American people are repeatedly told that nothing is getting done in Washington, struggling small business owners and entrepreneurs across our nation can only wish that were true. They know better than anyone that the Washington bureaucracy is busier than ever churning out red tape.
Washington set a new record in 2013 by issuing final rules consuming 26,417 pages in the Federal Register. Another 3,305 regulations are moving through the pipeline at the historic rate of roughly one new regulation every two hours.
Job number one of the Financial Services Committee is job creation and economic growth. That’s why the committee has passed dozens of bipartisan, pro-jobs bills during the 113th Congress. Yet Harry Reid has killed them, refusing to even bring them up for votes. Instead, he adds them to the pile of jobs bills collecting dust in the do-nothing Democrat-controlled Senate.
If President Obama truly cares about the harm caused by “endless regulations,” he should pick up the phone today, call Senator Reid and urge him to take action on these bipartisan jobs bills.
Posted by Staff on September 26, 2014
Currently, there are millions of Americans unemployed and underemployed in this struggling economy. And right now, job number one for the Financial Services Committee is job creation and economic growth. We have passed dozens of bipartisan, pro-jobs bills. OK, great. Now, they should pass through the Senate, right? Wrong. Senator Harry Reid has killed them off, refusing to even bring them up for votes and instead adds them to the pile of jobs bills collecting dust in the do-nothing Democrat-controlled Senate.
Your move, Senate.
During the 113th Congress, the House has passed 23 bipartisan, pro-jobs Financial Services Committee bills, including two that were approved by the House earlier this month with strong support from Republicans and Democrats. A list of those House-approved bills follows:
Posted by Staff on September 19, 2014
Subcommittee Examines the Financial Stability Oversight Council ("FSOC")
The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing on Wednesday to examine FSOC's operations, policies, and procedures. The subcommittee discussed the FSOC's failure to address recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and highlighted the need for greater transparency and accountability.
"The FSOC may well be the least transparent federal entity in the government. Of the 42 meetings held, no substantive description of discussions or members' perspective have been provided in the meeting minutes. In fact, two-thirds of the meetings were held in executive session, completely closed off to the public," said Subcommittee Chair Patrick McHenry (R-NC). "Even Congress, which created the FSOC and its unprecedented authority under Dodd-Frank, has been denied access to their process."
"Therefore, it is not shocking that the GAO concluded that almost two years after its 2012 report, that the FSOC has not made satisfactory progress in terms of complying with many of its recommendations, including those intended to ensure that the FSOC has a comprehensive set of systemic risk indicators, whether or not it's coordinating and clarifying rules with OFR and other regulators, and whether or not it has the ability to assess adequately the effect of SIFI designations on the market and on the designated companies," added Chairman McHenry.
"We all want to see the process opened up; we want to see what's happening," said Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI). "I would look at the bipartisan effort and message that's been sent from this committee and go back and have a solid conversation and review the policies at FSOC."
Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick | House Approves Fitzpatrick Jobs Bill
“This is a jobs bill – by repealing and reforming burdensome regulations, we can set businesses and working capital free to invest in the economy and to create jobs,” Fitzpatrick said in a speech on the House floor.
Weekend Must Reads
Daily Caller | CFPB Is No ‘Start-Up’ Agency, It’s The Same Old Bureaucracy And Should Be Repealed
No one at the CFPB, for instance, can tell the Inspector General’s office who actually made the decision to renovate the building. So a board given the responsibility to protect the financial welfare of American consumers can’t even account for who authorized their own $215 million office space. Congress certainly didn’t. That’s because the CFPB, unlike a typical government agency, does not have to return to Congress every year for budgetary and spending approval. When Democrats forced the Dodd-Frank bill into law with the support of just a few Republicans, they made sure the CFPB was funded out of a fixed percentage of the Federal Reserve’s budget. This essentially placed the agency beyond the reach of one of Congress’s core constitutional powers as well as the oversight the annual appropriations process provides.
Investor's Business Daily | Fed Prepares To Raise Rates, End Failed QE Policy
As rates rise, big questions remain: Will the higher rates the Fed is engineering sink the economy? Will we see unemployment return to recession levels? It doesn't seem likely. And yet, in 2008, if someone had told you that the Census Bureau would report in September 2014 that median income had shrunk 8.2% over the preceding five years, and only those with the highest incomes would see any gains at all, you might have thought that person was crazy. Well, it happened. Thanks to President Obama's misbegotten economic policies and "stimulus," and the Fed's own radical experiment in money printing, the U.S. has had its worst recovery ever from a recession. To its credit, perhaps, the Fed is now quietly trying to undo its failed experiment, by letting markets set interest rates and shutting down the QE program. If so, it's a minor victory for common sense and policy prudence.
In the News
American Banker | House Lawmakers Press FSOC for More Transparency
Wall Street Journal | Yellen's Discretion
Wall Street Journal | Dodd-Frank's Collateral Damage in Africa
Wall Street Journal | The Outlook: Fed Sizes Up Alternate Rate-Hike Paths
Posted by Staff on September 12, 2014
Subcommittee Reviews the Credit Reporting System
On Wednesday the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee held a hearing to review the roles and responsibilities of consumer reporting agencies.
"According to the FTC, nearly 20% of Americans have errors on their credit report. Furthermore, 5% of Americans have errors that could expose them to higher interest rates or lose access to consumer credit through no fault of their own," said Subcommittee Chair Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). "Today we will learn more about the systems that credit bureaus have in place to resolve discrepancies on a consumer credit report. We must work together to ensure that consumers who have legitimate discrepancies on their credit report can have them removed as quickly as possible."
Rep. Mick Mulvaney | Mulvaney on the CFPB
Rep. Mulvaney tells the Credit Union Times the CFPB is “a wonderful example of how a bureaucracy will function if it has no accountability to anybody.”
Weekend Must Reads
Investor's Business Daily | These 5 Facts Debunk U.S. Jobs Recovery Myth
The purpose of this exercise isn't to bash President Obama. But it's curious that someone whose policies have so clearly failed would double down on his mistakes, prolonging America's economic misery. Despite 0% interest rates, $7 trillion in added debt, more than $1.5 trillion in stimulus, and the Fed creating more than $4.5 trillion in new money out of thin air, our economy just stumbles along. Those hoping for a sudden burst of job-creating growth aren't likely to see it until there's a change in Washington. Until then, keep the champagne on ice.
Real Clear Markets | How Long Can the Economy Absorb Excessive Government Spending?
Few people would continue borrowing to spend beyond their means. Even if so inclined, consequences quickly eliminate this as a viable option. People would be even more loathe to let an outside entity garnish their wages indiscriminately (which is what taxation is to the economy) to pay for it. Most would succumb to the consequences, and their senses, and align spending with income.
Investor's Business Daily | Dodd-Frank Now Coming For The Insurers
Onerous Dodd-Frank rules aimed at banks are now being imposed on insurance companies and other nonbanks that had virtually nothing to do with the financial crisis. And they're being foisted on them by a regulatory body made up of a bunch of political hacks who have no idea how insurance companies are even run.
In the News
Politico Pro | Growing turmoil at CFPB union
American Banker | Small Institutions Could Be Hurt by Operation Choke Point: Lawmakers
Wall Street Journal | The SEC's New 'Thought Crime'
Posted by Staff on September 08, 2014
On Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee will hold a hearing to review the roles and responsibilities of consumer reporting agencies.
Posted by Staff on August 28, 2014
Dozens of CFPB workers say “the bureau’s lack of accountability is enabling managers to create their own minifiefdoms, stock the ranks with inexperienced and unqualified friends and retaliate against anybody who disagrees”
America's newest federal agency, charged with regulating financial institutions to prevent another hostile economic downturn, is having troubles regulating hostilities and discrimination among its own employees.
Evidence gathered by congressional investigators, internal agency documents and Washington Times interviews with workers discloses scores of cases of U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau employees seeking protection from racially offensive, sexist or discriminatory behavior, including that:
• A naturalized U.S. citizen, with more than a decade of service with the U.S. government, was called an "f'ing foreigner" by management.
• A department was internally dubbed "the Plantation" because of the number of blacks working in it — all supervised by white managers — without any obvious promotional track or way to get transferred.
• White employees were twice as likely to get the most favorable personnel ratings in employee reviews, as were minorities.
• Managers intimidated and retaliated against employees for voicing complaints or offering an alternative point of view — from denying vacation requests to hiring unqualified friends to supervise jobs and then asking subordinates to train them.
Evidence of discriminatory pay practices in the agency's own statistics have even resulted in promises by management of emergency pay raises for minority workers to create more parity, the documents show.
It's not the storyline that America's newest federal agency wanted at its inception.
CFPB, the brainchild of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, was created by then-Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and then-Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts.
The latter two Democrats pushed through legislation in Congress named after them that created the agency to protect consumers from predatory banks and lending institutions blamed for the 2007-2009 financial crisis. And Ms. Warren, now considered by some as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, became its first leader.
Since then, the agency has been a political football, roundly opposed by Republicans as an excessive regulatory power play and embraced by liberals who saw it as a necessary fix to a financial system gone awry.
Away from the political fray on Capitol Hill, dozens of workers at the CFPB say the bureau's lack of accountability is enabling managers to create their own minifiefdoms, stock the ranks with inexperienced and unqualified friends and retaliate against anybody who disagrees with their agenda.
The House Committee on Financial Services began airing some of the problems at hearings earlier this spring, bringing to light a situation that has simmered for months out of public view.
CFPB acknowledges its employees' complaints about a hostile working environment and says it is working with the National Treasury Employees Union — which represents CFPB employees — to settle worker protests and iron out new performance reviews, which are at the heart of many of the protests.
The agency's director, Richard Cordray, testified last month it has been challenging to create an agency from the ground up over the last three years, and working conditions for some have been "especially difficult."
"I am committed to ensuring that all Bureau employees are treated fairly and that they receive the respect and dignity they deserve," Mr. Cordray told the House Financial Services' Oversight and Investigations subcommittee on July 30.
Still, current CFBP employees say more work needs to be done and that some thought Mr. Cordray's testimony to be both impenitent and out of touch with what's actually happening at the bureau.
"Anybody who asks questions or doesn't just take orders gets discriminated against," Ali Naraghi, a bank examiner in the CFPB's southeast region, told The Washington Times in an interview. "What CFPB does internally to its staff is contrary to all of their objectives and the mission of the agency."
The Naraghi case
Mr. Naraghi, a naturalized citizen of Persian descent, alleges he was called a "f'ing foreigner" by his superiors because he vocalized discrepancies in the way the CFPB was conducting its bank examinations compared with the way it was done at the Federal Reserve, where Mr. Naraghi served for 14 years.
As a bank examiner, Mr. Naraghi holds a top government position, drawing in a salary of more than $100,000. He and other examiners essentially audit private banks for compliance with federal law.
At the Federal Reserve, Mr. Naraghi earned top performance marks and promotions — winning an excellence award for mortgage servicing. At the CFPB he's been graded at the lowest level in his performance reviews and has remained stagnant in his position since he started at the agency in 2011.
Newly in his position, Mr. Naraghi raised concerns to management that the CFPB wasn't using a risk model — a uniform institutionalized measuring stick — to evaluate banks' performance against one another. Because of this, he felt many examinations were skewed either in favor of what the institution dictated or to the examiner's own preconceived notions.
What the examinations weren't — he pointed out both to his manager and later to Congress in testimony — were objective.
"The only thing consistent within the CFPB is that it's inconsistent," said Mr. Naraghi, who still holds his position as he works out his complaint with the agency. "They want us to be like a private that salutes the major and does whatever they say — but everybody has something to add."
He said he wasn't trying to criticize the way CFPB was conducting its investigations, only voicing ways to make them better. His manager didn't view it that way.
After being subpoenaed by the congressional committee to testify in June, the agency tried to silence Mr. Naraghi by demanding lawmakers strike or bar his opening statement. The effort failed.
In his opening testimony, Mr. Naraghi said the very employee relations office that is supposed to help aggrieved employees was "broken and is more harmful than helpful to employees who suffer discrimination or retaliation."
Satisfaction survey higher
In response, CFPB spokeswoman Jen Howard said, on average, CFPB employees are more satisfied with their management compared with other government agencies.
According to a survey taken by CFPB and released to The Times, 72 percent of CFPB employees say they have a "high level of respect for my organization's senior leaders," compared to 54 percent governmentwide.
Seventy-five percent of CFPB employees either agree or strongly agree that "My supervisor/team leader is committed to a workforce representative of all segments of society," compared with 64 percent governmentwide, the agency said.
Despite his discrimination complaint, Mr. Naraghi doesn't question CFPB's mission — he very much stands up for the agency and the work it is doing. He sought employment at the CFPB after listening to Ms. Warren, the agency's first head and now a U.S. senator, describe the agency's goals of protecting consumers when she was pushing for it as a university professor.
"My in-laws in Mississippi had been taken advantage of by a fly-by-night mortgage company," said Mr. Naraghi. "I believe in our mission. That's why I came. We can do a lot of good, but breaking the law to enforce the law isn't cool in my opinion."
Part of the concern is CFPB's treatment of minorities, women and workers over the age of 40, Mr. Naraghi and other unnamed employees said. Also, the divide between management and the bargaining unit is vast, leaving those outside the higher ranks feeling helpless and without recourse.
Last year, within the CFPB, white employees were twice as likely to receive the highest rating at the bureau as compared to black or Hispanic employees, according to the CFPB's own performance management reviews, which were requested and made public by the union NTEU.
The odds were similarly stacked against workers over the age of 40, said Ben Konop, executive vice president at the NTEU in his May testimony to the committee.
"And ratings continued to be badly skewed in favor of management when compared with the ratings of the bargaining unit, who do the bulk of the work at the bureau," Mr. Konop said.
In 2013 CFPB employees filed 115 official grievances through the union — a particularly high amount for an agency with only 1,300 employees.
Complaints range from managers denying vacation requests in retaliation for comments they don't like to dismissing internal requests for promotions and hiring unqualified friends instead who then needed training and supervision from those in lesser positions, according to current employees.
Some of these complaints were addressed by management at CFPB's "All Hands" spring meeting — an agencywide conference that is used for training and team building.
In a presentation obtained from the conference by The Times, internal management laid bare the discrepancies in pay and performance between minorities and their white counterparts and committed to compensate employees for the difference.
"In the absence of a definitive root cause, we have decided to compensate employees to remediate statistical disparities caused by our prior performance management system and to bargain with NTEU to change it going forward," the presentation said.
The NTEU, for its part, will continue its effort to uncover and eliminate any unfair treatment at the bureau, NTEU National President Colleen M. Kelley said in a statement to The Times.
"Since NTEU began representing CFPB employees, we raised and pressed management on addressing employee concerns about disparate treatment and other workplace issues through collective bargaining and the grievance process," Ms. Kelley said.
Last month, improvements were made in the agency's telework policy, employee relocation policy and career ladder positions, Ms. Kelley said. The agency has also agreed to move away from its current performance system and form a task force that will focus on redesigning it, she said.
Agency employees say the pay increases are just restitution, but because almost everyone got bonuses and promotions, it just raised the playing field instead of equalizing it.
In addition, high-level employees — such as examiners with pay grades above a certain threshold — were exempt from the pay increases. In terms of the redesigned performance reviews, the true test will be in the coming months and years, employees said.
What angers them the most, however, is the fact that many managers who have a history of employee complaints and discrimination are still holding their jobs and, in some cases, intimidating others not to come forward, according to multiple employees, some of whom only spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Angela Martin, a senior CFPB enforcement attorney, accused a supervisor of retaliating against her after she filed a workers complaint with human resources.
Mrs. Martin alleges her supervisor threatened to bring counterclaims against her if she went forward with her complaint, then isolated her, diminished her job duties and held her accountable for work while preventing her from being involved in the preparation of that work.
Mrs. Martin — who solidly believes in the agency's mission — was a former private practice attorney and Army veteran who specialized in representing military families in consumer fraud cases.
"Employees have told me of alarming stories of maltreatment that resulted when they opposed the mismanagement and when they asserted their individual rights," Mrs. Martin, a mother of five, told Congress in April. "Certain managers have adopted an authoritarian, untouchable, unaccountable and unanswerable management style."
An external audit done at the request of the bureau agreed with Mrs. Martin's claims, and the CFPB settled with her this summer. She currently holds a new position at the agency and no longer interacts with her former supervisor.
However, CFPB launched a new investigation into Mrs. Martin's claims — hiring yet another independent third-party examiner last month — to re-examine her case. The new probe has had a chilling effect on those thinking about coming forward with their own grievances, employees said.
It was Mrs. Martin who first made the claims of the department's so-called "Plantation" where black employees were sent with no clear course of promotions or career track. Formally, the department is called the Office of Consumer Response Intake Section.
"There is an entire section in Consumer Response Intake that is 100 percent African-American, even the contractors, and it is called 'The Plantation,'" Mrs. Martin testified. "And people tell me it's very hard to leave The Plantation. You must be extremely savvy, or you must [have] somebody else [help you] to get out. And I will note, you cannot say education is a factor, because there are licensed attorneys and [people with] advanced master's degrees working there."
Jen Howard, a spokeswoman at CFPB, says Mrs. Martin's claims contained inaccurate information.
"There have been over 50 promotions within the Intake Section, and over 90 percent of the employees in the section who have received at least one promotion are minorities," said Ms. Howard in a written response.
"Three employees in the section have been promoted to supervisory roles outside of the section but within Consumer Response, all of whom are African-American. Four employees in the section have been promoted from 'Intake Specialist' to 'Intake Team Lead,' all of whom are African-American," she said.
Nonetheless, the accusations are so serious and widespread that the Government Accountability Office announced this month that it will begin an investigation into CFPB's organizational culture and management practices.
The investigation was requested by Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, North Carolina Republican and chairman of the House Financial Services Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee, which held the hearings; by Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican; and Consumer Subcommittee Chairwoman Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia Republican.
Since hearings began in April, Mr. McHenry said his office has heard from more than 32 employees complaining about maltreatment at the agency.
"The treatment of women and minorities at the CFPB is deplorable," Mr. McHenry said in a statement to The Times. "Unfortunately, due to the unique structure of the bureau — leaving it free from both congressional and executive branch oversight — there is little that can be done to stop these rogue agency leaders.
"While my subcommittee will continue its oversight efforts, ultimately it is Director Cordray's responsibility to realize the depth of these issues and finally address the suffering of so many CFPB employees," he said.
For now, Mr. Naraghi, and the many more like him who came forward anonymously, are both negotiating their cases with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and trying to navigate the tricky management system to steer clear of retaliation.
Some employees interviewed by The Times have since left the agency, giving up hope of any major institutional change in the near future.
CFPB management "tried to sully my record — they wanted me to sign a settlement with them and clear them of any wrongdoing. I'm not going to do that," said Mr. Naraghi, who is waiting on a hearing date for his grievance case. "What's right is right. I don't want to bring down the CFPB, but I do have a serious problem with its management."