With open letter to employees, House leader fires first salvo in coming oversight of consumer bureau

Workers at the federal consumer financial protection agency who are witnesses to waste, fraud, abuse, or gross mismanagement are urged to contact the chairwoman of the House committee overseeing the agency, she told the agency staff members in an “open letter” late Friday, as she prepares committee oversight plans.

House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) charged in the open letter to staff members of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that actions and changes at the bureau taken by former Acting Director John (“Mick”) Mulvaney were contrary to “both the spirit and plain letter of the law and appear to be designed to frustrate the Consumer Bureau’s mission.”

“Let me assure you that actions to weaken the Consumer Bureau from within as Director Mulvaney attempted to do will not go unchecked or unnoticed,” she wrote. “As Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, I will fight against any and all efforts to weaken the Consumer Bureau and make sure that your important work to protect consumers, as Congress intended, can continue.”

Mulvaney left the agency in mid-December; he was replaced – as permanent director for a five-year term – by Kathleen (“Kathy”) Kraninger.

Waters referred to results of an annual employee survey conducted by the bureau and released in late December. Among other things, the survey found more than half of the workers at the agency thought little of the its senior leadership, and fewer than one in four said they were satisfied with the policies and practices of their senior leaders.

The survey stated that about one-fourth (24.9%) of the respondents said that they agreed or agreed strongly with the statement that, “In my organization, senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce.” About the same percentage (24.6%) expressed satisfaction (both “satisfied” and “very satisfied”) with the statement “How satisfied are you with the policies and practices of your senior leaders?”

In encouraging workers to step forward with their comments about the agency, Waters stated in her letter that the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) provides broad protections to federal employees disclosing to Congress a violation of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; fraud; or an abuse of authority. “The Committee expects that the Consumer Bureau will comply with the WPA and any other applicable whistleblower laws in response to any Consumer Bureau employee that elects to exercise their right to report instances of waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement to Congress,” she wrote.

In addition to the whistleblower protections granted in the law, Waters stated, Congress has also passed criminal prohibitions against threatening or tampering with witnesses testifying before congressional proceedings.

“The Committee will not tolerate any intimidation of or retaliation against potential witnesses by anyone at any federal agency,” she wrote.

Waters Pens Open Letter to CFPB Employees