Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee are accusing Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director-nominee Rohit Chopra of stonewalling and refusing to answer questions about allegations that career employees are being pushed out of the agency.
“Your refusal to answer basic questions about whether you were privy to the troubling and possibly unlawful actions described in the press is unacceptable from a federal nominee and in our view should disqualify you from consideration as CFPB Director,” the GOP members wrote in a letter to Chopra Monday.
Chopra’s nomination is pending in the Senate. The Banking Committee deadlocked, 12-12, earlier this year, when it voted on favorably reporting the nomination to the Senate.
Government Executive, a government news website, reported last month that the CFPB leadership has offered incentives for employees to leave, including offering them full pension benefits before they otherwise would be eligible for them. The website reported that federal government rules are designed to encourage such employees to remain in their jobs even after a change in administration.
Senate Banking Committee ranking Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania wrote letters to Chopra and Acting Director Dave Uejio requesting information concerning the allegations.
“According to the allegations in the press reports, political leadership at the CFPB under the Biden administration has taken questionable and possibly unlawful actions to push out top-level CFPB career civil servants in order to fill those civil service positions with hand-picked loyalists,” the Republicans wrote in their letter Monday.
They said there have been allegations that employees received “extraordinary” separation incentives to leave the CFPB and that employees have been placed on administrative lead while “frivolous investigations” of their work were conducted.
“Indeed, if you are refusing even to respond to congressional inquiries while your nomination is pending before the Senate, there is little doubt about how you will treat such inquiries if confirmed,” the GOP members said in their letter to Chopra.
In a letter obtained by Washington Credit Union Daily, Uejio said that the agency has not broken any employment laws or rules. “In response to your first question, the Bureau does not ‘push out’ career employees,” Uejio wrote in the July 2 response to Toomey’s original letter. He said that several career executives at the agency have retired, adding that is not unusual in federal agencies.
Uejio said that former CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger instituted a Voluntary Separation Compensation policy in March 2020. He added that to protect the privacy of bureau employees, he could not provide additional details about employees who may have left the agency.
“However, I can assure you that under my leadership, no Executive was offered such a payment for any political or partisan reason,” Uejio wrote, adding that Chopra was not involved in any decisions about compensation agreements.
Uejio said that to protect the personal privacy interests of agency employees, he also could not confirm or deny whether employees have been placed on administrative leave during investigations.
“Again, I can assure you that any decisions to initiate investigations or utilize administrative leave are not made for any partisan or political reason and that such use of administrative leave is consistent with the provisions of the Administrative Leave Act setting forth the appropriate basis for placing employees on investigative leave,” he wrote.