Chairman Jeb Hensarling

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Posted by Staff on July 11, 2014
Committee Seeks Accountability and Transparency at the Federal Reserve

On Thursday, the Financial Services Committee held a hearing to examine H.R. 5018, the Federal Reserve Accountability and Transparency Act. The proposal is the first piece of legislation to arise from the Committee’s Federal Reserve Centennial Oversight Project.

"We do not suggest for a moment that Congress, much less the White House or Treasury, should conduct monetary policy operations. We continue to respect the Federal Reserve’s independence in monetary policy. But that independence and discretion must be paired with appropriate transparency and accountability. What we require today in this legislation is that the Fed use a clear map of its own choosing to set the course for monetary policy and share that map with the rest of us," Chairman Hensarling (R-TX) said.

Other members of the committee also stressed that the Fed’s independence needs to be paired with transparency and accountability, for "an independent Fed shouldn't equal an opaque Fed," said Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL).

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), the sponsor of H.R. 5018, said the bill “lifts this veil of secrecy by increasing accountability and transparency by limiting Fed officials ‘blackout periods’ to discuss policy with Congress, opening the rulemaking process, and requiring the Fed to provide a cost-benefit analysis for every regulation it issues. Additionally, this legislation urges the Fed to adopt a ‘rules-based’ approach to monetary policy instead of the continued improvisation strategy currently being employed. Should the Fed fail to adopt a ‘rules-based’ approach, it would trigger an audit of the Fed’s books.”

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) said, “Despite setting regulatory policies that impact millions of Americans, the Federal Reserve – by and large – operates in secret. Congress is all that stands between the central bank’s exercise of power over the financial system and the American people. So it is vital to ensure that the Fed is accountable to the people’s representatives.”

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Rep. Sean Duffy | FDIC boss visits Wausau to discuss banking regulations 

"We may have competing interests," said Duffy, a member of the House Financial Services Committee. "We want to make sure we have sound, stable lending. The chairman comes from a little different perspective after going through the crisis and all the stress that has been put on him and the FDIC team. Maybe they're a little more cautious than we'd like them to be right now."

Weekend Must Reads


Daily Signal | Ending Ex-Im Bank is All About Governing

Ex-Im is rife with corruption, doesn’t promote competition, costs taxpayers billions of dollars and threatens American jobs. It’s all about politically connected big businesses getting bigger with help from Uncle Sam. It’s not fair, not necessary, and shouldn’t be a hard decision for Congress.

The Wall Street Journal 
| Free People, Free Markets

The answer to our current slow growth and self-doubt isn't a set of magical "new ideas" or some unknown orator from the provinces. The answer is to rediscover the eternal truths that have helped America escape malaise and turmoil in the past.

Economics One | New Legislation Requires Fed to Adopt Policy Rule

A lot of research and experience shows that more predictable rules-based monetary policy leads to better economic performance. So the Federal Reserve Accountability and Transparency Act is good news.
    On the Horizon 

July 15, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Hearing

"The Department of Justice’s ‘Operation Choke Point"

July 15, 2014 2:00 p.m.
Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Hearing

"Examining Regulatory Relief Proposals for Community Financial Institutions, Part II"

July 16, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Full Committee Hearing

"Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy"

July 17, 2014 9:45 a.m.
Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee Hearing

"A Legislative Proposal Entitled the ‘Bank Account Seizure of Terrorist Assets (BASTA) Act"

  In the News

Wall Street Journal | House Republicans Want Fed to Adopt Policy-Making Rules

Financial Times | Lew challenged over Volcker rule impact

Reuters| Lawmaker questions NY Fed role in U.S. regulatory risk panel

Holland Sentinel | Reps. Huizenga, Garrett release major fed reform legislation

New York Times: | House Republicans Resume Efforts to Reduce Fed’s Power

Politico Pro: | GOP to Fed: More to come

Bloomberg: | Lew Confronted Over Volcker Rule Effect on Bond Liquidity

Posted by Staff on July 07, 2014
The House is in session Tuesday through Friday this week.

On Thursday at 10:00 a.m. the full committee will hold a hearing on legislation to reform the Federal Reserve on its 100-year anniversary.

Be sure to check back here on the Bottom Line Blog -- and sign up for our email updates -- for additional information throughout the week.
Posted by Staff on July 01, 2014

1.    The Ex-Im Bank doesn’t create jobs.

  • Government export finance assistance programs like Ex-Im “largely shift production among sectors within the economy rather than raise the overall level of employment in the economy.” - Government Accountability Office, “Export-Import Bank: Key Factors in Considering Ex-Im Bank Reauthorization” 
  • “[A]t best the Ex-Im Bank creates jobs in export industries by destroying jobs in non-export industries.” – Donald Bodreaux, Ph.D, Professor of Economics at George Mason University
  • “By some estimates, the Bank’s loan guarantees have resulted in up to 7,500 lost U.S. carrier jobs, and up to $684 million of lost income for U.S. airline employees annually. – Delta Airlines

2.    The Ex-Im Bank doesn’t return money to the taxpayers.

  • The Ex-Im Bank’s profits aren’t real.  They are an accounting illusion.  The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that if the Bank followed more accurate accounting rules, its ledger would show a cost to taxpayers of $200 million/year, or $2 billion over 10 years.  -- CBO Fair-Value Estimate

3.    The Ex-Im Bank fails to help small businesses, even though it is required by law to do so.

  • Congress requires that 20% of Ex-Im’s authorizations go to small businesses, but Ex-Im consistently fails to meet this statutory requirement.  Ex-Im even admits this in its annual report (Page 45):

  • Ex-Im’s subsidies go overwhelmingly to very large corporations like Boeing, GE and Caterpillar.

4.    The Ex-Im Bank uses American taxpayers’ money to help foreign corporations, including businesses that are owned by the governments of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

  • Of the 50 largest loans or guarantees approved by the Ex-Im Bank since FY2007, 46% of the loans have gone to state-owned companies or to a joint-venture that includes a state-owned company.  

5.    The Ex-Im Bank financed only 1.6% of total U.S. exports in 2013.

  • That’s less than 0.18 percent of the total U.S. economy.
Posted by Staff on June 27, 2014

WASHINGTON -- The House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday held an in-depth, day-long hearing focused on the Export-Import Bank.

The Washington Post - Fred Hochberg, chairman of the “embattled” Export-Import Bank, “refused to answer repeated questions” about whether he was aware of a criminal investigation being conducted into bank officials who are accused of corruption and taking kickbacks. The allegations “turned a harsher light on the agency – and fueled the arguments of the bank’s long-standing critics.”

The Daily Caller - There is “a history of reforms being ignored” at the Bank. “Strong questions about Ex-Im’s accountability were also raised” at the hearing. While Ex-Im claims it supports jobs and returns money to the taxpayers, “none of these arguments withstand scrutiny,” a witness countered.

The Guardian - The last time Congress reauthorized Ex-Im in 2012, “Congress insisted on reforms that, critics argue, were not fully implemented.” The CEO of Delta Air Lines pointed out that “state-run airlines owned by rich foreign governments” are being subsidized by U.S. taxpayers through Ex-Im.

Salon - Liberals like President Obama used to condemn Ex-Im “as a slush fund that allows the government to fund a series of nasty activities."  Now “Democrats have rushed to Ex-Im’s aid,” ignoring their earlier criticisms, for example, of “how Enron…benefitted from $675 million in Ex-Im loans.”

Washington Examiner - Victims of Ex-Im include “domestic competitors of the very few U.S. businesses to get subsidy exports,” including U.S. semiconductor makers who compete against foreign semiconductor makers “who get Ex-Im subsidies.”
 
NPR - Committee members noted Ex-Im “sends taxpayer dollars to economic competitors of the U.S., that its loan guarantees amount to crony capitalism and that its biggest beneficiaries are some of the biggest multinational companies” in the world.

Reuters - Ex-Im’s future was cast into doubt after it was held up as “an example of corporate cronyism that benefits multi-nationals at the expense of taxpayers and many small companies.” Also discussed at the hearing was a report that four Ex-Im officials “had been suspended or removed” after investigators began looking “into charges of improper gifts and kickbacks.”
 
AP - Wednesday’s hearing began with criticism that Ex-Im gives foreign airlines “a competitive advantage,” unfarily using the “full faith and credit of the United States” to “the detriment of U.S. companies and their employees.”

###

Posted by Staff on June 27, 2014
In the News | The Committee on Financial Services Committee Seeks Openness and Transparency at FSOC

On Tuesday, the full committee held an oversight hearing with Treasury Secretary Lew on the activities of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC).

Under questioning from Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Secretary Lew admitted that he could not say the Dodd-Frank Act ended "Too Big to Fail" as Democrats promised.

"Can you tell this committee today with an honest, straight face that we have ended 'Too Big to Fail'?" Chairman Hensarling asked.

"I'm not sure we'll know the answer to that question until we have the next financial crisis," Secretary Lew responded.

At the hearing, Chairman Hensarling and other members of the committee also called for greater openness and transparency at FSOC.

"The reason transparency and accountability are so important is because FSOC can designate practically any large financial firm in our nation as a Systemically Important Financial Institution, a SIFI, and thus render effective control over it. Thus, it has the ability to render great damage to our economy and set back the dreams of tens of millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans who are counting on their capital markets to work for them," Chairman Hensarling said.

Earlier this month, the committee passed bills to make FSOC more accountable and transparent and to place a one-year "timeout" on its designations of non-bank institutions as "systemically important."

Export-Import Bank: Corporate Necessity or Corporate Welfare?

On Wednesday, the committee held a hearing to examine the role of the Export-Import Bank.

"If you’re a politically-connected bank or company that benefits from Ex-Im, no doubt you would like it to continue. After all, it’s a sweetheart deal for you. Taxpayers shoulder the risk and you get the reward. But if you work at a small business or other American company competing in the global marketplace, it’s unfair. Ex-Im effectively taxes you while subsidizing your foreign competitors," said Chairman Hensarling.

Captain Lee Moak, President of the Air Line Pilots Association, noted throughout his testimony "we have lost jobs" because of "our own government policy" at Ex-Im. "It's one thing competing in the free marketplace. It's another when our government subsidizes our competitor," Captain Moak said.

In his questioning of Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg, Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) said Eastern Kentucky has lost 7,000 coal jobs as a "direct result of the regulatory assault" of the Obama Administration. "My question to you is why on earth - if you're about creating jobs - why are you aligning yourself with a job-killing agenda?"

Subcommittee Examines the SEC's Division of Trading and Markets 

On Thursday, the Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the SEC's Division of Trading and Markets.

"Let me provide perhaps just two specific areas that I would like to see more attention from the commission," Subcommittee Chairman Scott Garrett (R-NJ) said. "First, the world is vastly different, we all agree, from 1975, when Congress amended the Exchange Act in response to one dominant equities exchange at the time. We live in a world of demutualized exchanges, where all market centers are for-profit, providing similar functions, yet they're competing under very different regulatory umbrellas. The SEC should take the time, therefore, to thoroughly analyze the situation and eventually make changes that put their varying market participants on, as they always say, a more level playing field. Secondly, Reg NMS, as the order protection rule is a very heavy-handed rule dictating explicitly how venues and orders are supposed to interact with each other in the marketplace. Now, this has been highlighted by a number of the commentators, including some of our previous panelists here, as one of the significant factors underlying market practices and also behavior."

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Rep. Mick Mulvaney | "In 32 Seconds, Mick Mulvaney Boils Down the Debate Over Ex-Im Bank" 

Who do you trust—a government agency justifying its existence or a private business trying to compete? That’s the question Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) posed at Wednesday's Financial Services Committee hearing on the Export-Import Bank. In just 32 seconds, Mulvaney explains why he’s siding with the free market.

Weekend Must Reads


Washington Examiner | Examiner Editorial: Why some Democrats would like to limit congressional oversight

Democrats fear that Congress is moving in the direction of correcting the monumental mistake it made when it created CFPB in 2010 and exempted it from congressional oversight of its budget.

The Wall Street Journal | The Fed Needs to Return to Monetary Rules

As the Federal Reserve's large-scale bond purchases wind down, financial markets and policy makers now are focused on when the Fed will move to increase interest rates. There is a more fundamental question that needs to be answered: Will the central bank continue its highly interventionist and discretionary monetary policies, or will it move to a more rules-based approach?

    In the News

The Washington Post | U.S. Export-Import Bank chief faces heat from Republicans in House hearing

Salon | Why Export-Import Bank politics are so perverse

Washington Examiner | Delta Air Lines' Export-Import Bank proposal: Stop giving subsidies to our foreign competitors

NPR | Conservative Critics Lobby For An Early End To Export-Import Bank

Reuters | Conservative attacks mount on U.S. export lender, put future at risk

Hot Air | Consumer Financial Protection Bureau already sinking into scandal

Posted by Staff on June 26, 2014
  

June 26, 2014
By Charles Lane

Of all the purposes for which you might put U.S. taxpayer dollars at risk, helping wealthy petro-states borrow millions to buy Boeing jets would not rank among the most urgent.

Yet that is what the Export-Import Bank does: In fiscal 2013, Ex-Im backed$8.3 billion in aircraft and related sales, including a $117.5 million loan guarantee to support Boeing 737 purchases by Dubai — a typical transaction for an agency that has, over the years, earned the sobriquet “Bank of Boeing,” though it does also support Caterpillar and General Electric, among others.

Now Ex-Im suddenly faces extinction: Its charter expires Sept. 30, and the agency’s best friend in the House Republican leadership, former majority leader Eric Cantor (Va.), who shepherded a bipartisan reauthorization bill in 2012, lost his GOP primary this month. Ex-Im must contend instead with free-market Republicans such as Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), chairman of the committee that oversees Ex-Im, and a new majority leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has abandoned his past support for Ex-Im in deference to the tea party.

Say what you want about the tea party, its critique of Ex-Im Bank as “crony capitalism” has a lot going for it; President Obama himself singled out Ex-Im as an example of “corporate welfare” when he was running for president in 2008 — although his administration, and most congressional Democrats, support it now.

Ex-Im defenders from the International Association of Machinists union to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are bombarding Congress and the media with the message that Ex-Im is a realistic instrument of national policy, without which Boeing and other U.S. firms could not compete against heavily subsidized European companies, such as Airbus.

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs depend on these exports, the argument goes, and Ex-Im made $1 billion last year from fees for loan guarantees and the like, so the U.S. economy gets all those benefits and it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.

Has Ex-Im finally discovered the elusive free lunch? Suppose it’s true, as the bank reports, that 205,000 U.S. workers owed their employment to Ex-Im-supported exports in fiscal 2013. This is not evidence of job creation; it’s evidence of governmentally-assisted job allocation. Resources that Ex-Im helped steer to Boeing, et al., might have created the same number of jobs, or more, at other firms.

Indeed, the first crack in a formerly united front of business support for Ex-Im appeared when Delta Airlines complained — plausibly — that Ex-Im-backed sales of Boeing jets to state-owned competitors abroad put Delta and its workers at a competitive disadvantage.

To fight the “bank of Boeing” stigma, Congress has required Ex-Im to allocate more of its portfolio (up to $140 billion under current law) to small business and “green” exports. No doubt these quotas spread Ex-Im largesse among more businesses — and congressional districts — thus broadening its political base.

Economically, though, nothing changes. Government is still picking winners and losers; it’s just picking more of them, in more markets, with more opportunities for bureaucratic decision-making, lobbying and, now and then, corruption — like the alleged bribery of an Ex-Im official by a construction-equipment exporter that the Ex-Im inspector general is investigating.

The no-cost-to-the-taxpayer argument is overblown, too. If Ex-Im backs loans that the private sector would not otherwise make, then, by definition, its portfolio is risky. Yet under existing law the federal budget accounts for Ex-Im’s loans as if they were as safe as Treasury debt. According to the Congressional Budget Office, a more accurate measure known as “fair value accounting,” which factors in foreseeable business cycle downturns, would show that Ex-Im adds $2 billion to the deficit over the next decade, rather than reducing it by $14 billion, as currently claimed.

The strongest argument for Ex-Im is that the United States can’t unilaterally disarm in a world where both buyers and sellers expect government intervention — not only from Europe, but also China and Japan — in the market for big-ticket items such as planes, nuclear reactors and locomotives.

It is an undeniably realistic contention, if not a principled one — all the more reason it might yet prevail. The Senate leans pro-Ex-Im. Forty-one House Republicans have signed a letter promising to back a bill if GOP leaders bring it to the floor, and most House Democrats are already on board.

Even if abolition is impossible, Ex-Im’s critics might have leverage to win real reforms, starting with fair-value risk accounting in the budget and an end to quotas for small business and green energy.

Ultimately, the best hope may be to negotiate tougher international rules against export subsidies, so every country’s companies can compete on their merits — and no country’s taxpayers are on the hook.

###

Posted by Staff on June 23, 2014
The Financial Services Committee will hold the following hearings this week:

Tuesday, June 24 at 10 a.m. – The Committee will hear from Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on the Annual Report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

Wednesday, June 25 at 10 a.m. – The Committee will hold a hearing entitled:  “Examining Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank:  Corporate Necessity or Corporate Welfare?”

Thursday, June 26 at 9:15 a.m. – The Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises will hold a hearing entitled:  “Oversight of the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets.”

All hearings will take place in Room 2128 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  Further information about the hearings can be found at www.financialservices.house.gov/.

Posted by Staff on June 20, 2014
Committee Seeks Accountability at the CFPB

On Tuesday, the full committee held a hearing with Director Richard Cordray to receive the fifth Semi-Annual Report of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

"Since Director Cordray last appeared before our committee in January, we have learned much. First, we have learned in the first quarter of this year we actually had negative economic growth of one percent. And when you speak to practically any small businessperson, any community banker they will tell you the sheer weight, volume, complexity of the regulatory red tape burden is one of the primary reasons that they cannot expand and hire more people," said Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).

Chairman Hensarling and Members of the committee addressed further troubling issues at the Bureau and highlighted the need for accountability at the CFPB.

"These disturbing developments once again demonstrate, I believe conclusively, why there must be substantial structural reform at the CFPB.  Consumers deserve accountability – not only from Wall Street but they deserve it from Washington, too.  Yet, by design the CFPB remains arguably the least accountable Washington bureaucracy in the history of America and it shows.  This must change," Chairman Hensarling said.

Subcommittee Hears Testimony from Subpoenaed CFPB Witnesses

The House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee heard testimony this week from two more whistleblowers as part of its ongoing investigation into discrimination and retaliation at the CFPB.

“CFPB’s funding and structure afford Congress an extremely limited ability to influence the Bureau’s operations and policies, and yet these allegations of discrimination and retaliation at the CFPB underscores the significant need for greater Congressional oversight of the CFPB,” said Subcommittee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

The whistleblowers -- CFPB Examiner Ali Naraghi and former Bureau employee Kevin Williams – asked to be subpoenaed in order to guard against further retaliation by the Bureau.

Naraghi and Williams described a hostile work environment at the CFPB.

“After being subjected to disparate treatment, I asked my management in May 2012 about the reason for being treated like this,” said Naraghi. “Management responded that they did not like me asking questions about the reason behind orders and what my rights may be, and how I raised questions about certain aspects of CFPB management practices.”

“They proceeded to make my professional and personal life a living hell by repeated retaliation and creating a hostile work environment,” Naraghi added.

Williams told the Subcommittee of similar discrimination and retaliation.  “Sadly, instead of the positive, modern government agency I had expected, my experience at the CFPB was reminiscent of past eras of injustice, cronyism, discrimination, and retaliation,” he said.

Committee Passes TRIA Reform and FSOC Accountability and Transparency Bills

The House Financial Services Committee on Friday passed 3 bills, to bring much needed reforms to the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) and much needed transparency and accountability to the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC).

"I remind all that TRIA, when originally envisioned, was meant to be a transitional program.  Let me quote from the statute: “The purpose of this title is to establish a temporary Federal program that provides for a transparent system of shared public and private compensation… and allow for a transitional period for the private markets to stabilize ….” Yet here we are discussing the third reauthorization. If passed, TRIA, a temporary program, would be in existence for nearly 20 years," said Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).

The Chairman called for accountability and transparency at FSOC, "an agency that has no discernible standard by which to designate these non-bank firms. They operate in a complete secretive and opaque fashion. They themselves can create systemic risk in our economy," he said.

"The two bills we will consider today, one will bring more transparency and an open process; the other will simply call a one-year “timeout” so that Congress has a chance to assess this work.  Again, there has been great concern by Members on both sides of the aisle. I think these are reasonable bills to begin to address an incredibly important issue before our committee. I urge Members on both sides of the aisle to support
all the legislation before us," Hensarling added.


MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Rep. Ed Royce | Rep. Royce Presses Cordray at Financial Services Committee Hearing 

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) said at Tuesday's full committee hearing that the CFPB "appears to be making policy without obtaining public input. This trend is a cause for concern, as the lack of public input during policy formulation often leads to unintended consequences including regulatory confusion and less consumer choice."

Weekend Must Reads


Washington Times | Examiner Editorial: Federal agency can't hide exploding cost of refurbishing its HQ

The truth is, as the Examiner's Richard Pollock has exhaustively reported using the bureau's own numbers and those of the General Services Administration, the cost of the CFPB's headquarters renovation has exploded. Many of the reasons behind the skyrocketing renovation costs ought to be, as Johanns accurately put it, “embarrassing” for Cordray. The projected cost total of $55 million came from the Office of Thrift Supervision, the previous occupant of the CFPB's headquarters. Members of the House Financial Services Committee have also demanded but not received answers for several years on why that total has more than doubled to $139 million.

Wall Street Journal The Asset-Rich, Income-Poor Economy

The Fed's extraordinary tools are far more potent in goosing balance-sheet wealth than spurring real income growth. The most recent employment report reveals the troubling story for Main Street. While 217,000 jobs were created in May, incomes for most Americans remain under stress, with only modest improvements in hours worked and average hourly earnings.
Posted by Staff on June 17, 2014

Note:  The Financial Services Committee will hold two hearings about the CFPB on Wednesday, June 18.  At 10 a.m., the full committee will hear from CFPB Director Richard Cordray.  At 2 p.m., the Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hear from CFPB whistleblowers during its third hearing on allegations of discrimination and retaliation within the CFPB.  Both hearings will take place in room 2128 Rayburn House Office Building and will be webcast at http://financialservices.house.gov/.

 

POLITICO PRO:  CFPB employee’s charges of retaliation to be aired at hearing

6/16/14

A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau employee will testify before Congress this week about a “culture of intimidation and retaliation” at the agency and raise allegations of mistreatment in the workplace — including that he was referred to as an “F-ing foreigner” by someone in management.

Ali Naraghi, an examiner with the division of supervision, fair lending and enforcement for the CFPB’s Southeast region, is one of two witnesses set to appear before the House Financial Services Oversight Subcommittee on Wednesday as a part of the panel’s ongoing investigation into allegations of discrimination and retaliation within the agency.

Naraghi — who is of Persian heritage — does not specify who in management allegedly called him an “F-ing foreigner” in his opening remarks, which were obtained by POLITICO.

“Like many others, I feel fortunate to have immigrated to the United States, and do not deserve to be referred to in derogatory terms by Bureau management,” Naraghi says in prepared testimony. Naraghi claims that several people at the agency made his life “a living hell” through repeated retaliation and hostile behavior.

Naraghi and Kevin Williams, a former CFPB employee who was a quality monitor at the bureau’s Office of Consumer Response, were issued subpoenas by the Oversight Subcommittee last week and are set to testify in a hearing Wednesday afternoon. The committee’s Republican staff said both individuals requested they be subpoenaed so that they could share their stories without risking further retaliation.

It is the second time this year that the committee exercised its subpoena powers to compel the testimonies of people connected to the CFPB, and Wednesday will mark the third hearing where witnesses discuss alleged mismanagement across the agency.

The CFPB has come under congressional scrutiny this year after it was first reported in March that white employees received higher ratings than minorities on a rating scale that the agency uses to determine employee benefits, including raises and bonuses. An internal review found disparities in the ways employees were evaluated in recent years based on factors like race ethnicity, age and pay, and the bureau announced last month that it would compensate workers who may have received unfair performance ratings as a part of the CFPB’s “corrective actions.”

The recent charges that have dogged the agency are also expected to be at the center of CFPB Director Richard Cordray’s testimony before the Financial Services Committee Wednesday morning.

Republicans opposed the creation of CFPB and have been critical of the agency since it opened for business in 2011, arguing it represents a government overreach and will make it harder for consumers to get credit. They have seized on the recent allegations of discrimination and retaliation at the agency. Democrats have expressed concerns about the charges as well but have urged panel Republicans to broaden the inquiry to all financial regulators rather than focus only on the bureau.

Naraghi, who formerly worked at the Federal Reserve, says in his opening remarks that his experience at the CFPB has demonstrated that “voicing a professional dissenting opinion that is any way at odds with Bureau management — even in the smallest of ways — will result in retaliation.”

“Unfortunately, the Southeast Region examination program is run by intimidation and, like a dictatorship, there are significant consequences for disagreeing and/or disobeying the King,” he says.

He directs criticism at several CFPB employees, including chief human capital officer Dennis Slagter. Naraghi alleges that when he offered feedback to Slagter about the large bank supervision program, the response he received was: “If you don’t like it, go back to the Federal Reserve Board.”

When he raised concerns to management about unfair treatment in 2012, Naraghi says he was told “they did not like me asking questions about the reason behind orders and what my rights may be, and how I raised questions about certain aspects of CFPB management practices.” And after he filed a complaint with the office of Equal Employment Opportunity, Naraghi claims he quickly became “one of the targets” of Regional Director Jim Carley and Assistant Director of Supervision Examination Paul Sanford.

A bureau spokesperson declined to comment directly on Naraghi’s testimony. They pointed to a March report from CFPB’s inspector general that made recommendations on how the bureau can improve its supervisory activities. CFPB officials told the IG they have taken steps to address the audit’s findings, according to the report.

The opening statement also details what Naraghi says was his attempt to appeal to Liza Strong, a labor and employee relations official at CFPB, in July 2012. When he sent her an email detailing concerns about mistreatment and flagged what he considered to be “unprofessional” and “possibly illegal” conduct by field manager Jerome Uberu, Naraghi says Strong responded nearly three months later and did not investigate the complaint.

“Ms. Strong’s outright dismissal of my own legitimate concerns of mismanagement has caused Mr. Uberu to become more brazen in his intimidation and abuse of my fellow examiners,” he said.

Strong was one of the witnesses subpoenaed by the Financial Services Oversight Committee earlier this year. In a May hearing, Strong came under fire from House Republicans on whether the bureau acted promptly to address concerns raised in a September report about its hiring practices and employee diversity and whether the agency tried to sweep its findings under the rug during negotiations over a new employee evaluation system.

Strong’s lawyer, John Dowd, said Monday that the email Naraghi cites was directed to the head of the EEO and that Strong was cc’d on the note. Dowd said Strong offered “courteous advice” despite being “swamped with work and short of staff at the time,” and that Naraghi’s testimony “appears to be a deliberate, unfounded, and baseless leak of erroneous information about Ms. Strong’s responsibilities and obligations at the CFPB to cast her in a false light as earlier testimony before this Committee attempted to do.”

“Ms. Strong’s job is to investigate complaints, not become engaged in the EEO process,” Dowd added. “The EEO process is separate from her job. Indeed, it would be improper for her to become involved in the EEO process.”

The CFPB declined to make Slagter, Carley, Sanford and Uberu available for comment.

 

###

Posted by Staff on June 09, 2014


WSJ Editorial | June 9, 2014

One issue that has Republicans at the grass roots tearing at each other instead of fighting Democrats is the sense that the Beltway GOP protects Beltway special interests. We can't think of a better way for the party's Washington leadership to show they get that message than by pulling the plug on the Export-Import Bank.

Unless you are part of the Ex-Im brotherhood, you couldn't begin to guess when it was created—in 1934 by Franklin D. Roosevelt. It's now kept on life support by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an in-crowd of current and retired Congressional Republicans and Democrats.

The FDR antique provides taxpayer-backed loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees and export credit insurance to clients of some of America's largest corporations, such as Boeing and General Electric, and to politically favored concerns such as Elon Musk's Space X. Two years ago a bipartisan coalition waved through Ex-Im's reauthorization and increased its lending cap by $40 billion, to $140 billion. This year Ex-Im wants another five-year reauthorization and a lending cap boost to $160 billion.

Republicans serious about cleaning up their act might want to parse the following Ex-Im arguments for its existence before giving the bank another taxpayer fill-up.

Ex-Im does deals that private lenders shun. If a private bank won't do an export-financing deal, why should Congress put taxpayer money at risk to clinch the deal? In today's global financial markets, companies large and small can access trade financing, either in the capital markets or from lenders.

Private loans may be more expensive, but that's because competitive markets attempt to price accurately the trade-off between risk and reward. The Ex-Im subsidy also distorts economic decision-making in developing countries. Politicians love a national airline that's flying new Boeings, but maybe their citizens would be better served with better roads.

Ex-Im operates at "no cost" to taxpayers and even generates profits. Ex-Im CEO Fred Hochberg told the House last year that Ex-Im "has generated $1.6 billion for U.S. taxpayers over the past five years." That's true, but Ex-Im hasn't always been profitable, and as the Mercatus Center's Veronique de Rugy has noted, Ex-Im's exposure to "loans, guarantees, and insurance" and other miscellaneous claims has exploded, rising to $113.8 billion in 2013 from $57.4 billion in 2007.

The bank's own stress test in December predicted that its capital reserves could be wiped out in a crisis. The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that if the bank used fair-value accounting that better measured market risk, Ex-Im would lose $2 billion over 10 years.

Other countries subsidize exports, so the U.S. should too. The illogic here is that because China subsidizes exports for American consumers at the expense of the Chinese taxpayer, American taxpayers should return the favor for Chinese consumers.

There is also little evidence showing that Ex-Im is a main export driver, and in practice its guarantees favor some U.S. companies over others. One of the unfavored is Delta Airlines, which must compete with the foreign airlines that Ex-Im assists through its loans to Boeing and General Electric. As Delta put it in a letter to Mr. Hochberg, "Ex-Im is inflicting real and lasting harm on the U.S. airline industry and American jobs" by helping Delta's foreign competitors buy cheaper airplanes.

Ex-Im finances small businesses and creates jobs. Let's put that differently: Congress requires Ex-Im to finance small business and purports to create jobs. Congress has layered mandates on the bank to support women- and minority-owned businesses, green companies, and firms in sub-Saharan Africa. But the bulk of its business is with very large corporations like Boeing, GE and Caterpillar.

The process by which the bank counts its jobs numbers is opaque. A May 2013 Government Accountability Office report said the bank can't distinguish between jobs "newly created" or jobs "maintained." The GAO found so many other problems that it asked the bank to "increase transparency by improving reporting on the assumptions and limitations in the methodology and data used to calculate the number of jobs Ex-Im supports."

The 80-year old bank doesn't much care for criticism. At Ex-Im's annual conference in April, a testy Mr. Hochberg said the bank's critics "can't stomach the thought that the government might have a role to play in empowering U.S. businesses to compete across the globe."

Not quite, Mr. Hochberg. What they can't abide is a government that continues to practice crony capitalism even after the failures of Fannie Mae, Fisker Automotive and Solyndra. Republican voters in particular want the cronyism to stop. House leaders need to show they get the message.

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