Ignoring Master Cordray’s Plantation

The other week, I read an intriguing HousingWire article written by the indefatigable Trey Garrison that noted The Washington Times’ coverage regarding allegations of crass racism in personnel practices at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Trey’s coverage of the Washington Times’ coverage is notable because very few media outlets outside of financial trade media and the Washington insider outlets have given serious attention to this subject.

Indeed, a casual check of Google News finds that only a few prominent media outlets (Fox News, The Week, The Boston Globe) picked up the story following The Washington Times’ reporting. The strange thing, as Trey noted in his article, was that the ugly personnel problems within the CFPB have been percolating for most of the year. None of these allegations are a secret – in fact, it was even under the magnifying glass at a House of Representatives hearing last spring. But, with very few exceptions, the mainstream media has made a conscious choice to refuse to present this story to the wider public.

And what is public not being told? Well, the CFPB has an internal nickname called “The Plantation” because of the glaringly lopsided division of labor along racial lines: black employees are in lower level jobs under white managerial supervision, with next-to-zero chance of professional advancement. An Iranian-born CFPB staffer who is a naturalized U.S. citizen was dubbed a “f***ing foreigner” by CFPB management. Age discrimination complaints raised by workers ages 40 and up are also numerous in this agency. And anyone at the CFPB who voices complaints about what was going on faced a gauntlet of retaliatory punishments.

So why is the mainstream media mostly ignoring this story? For starters, it might be viewed by some news editors and producers as a partisan attempt embarrass the White House – never mind that the CFPB is supposed to be an independent regulatory agency and not an office of the Obama Administration. Indeed, only the House Republicans have been forcing the issue into public discussion – House Democrats have tried to squash this effort and the Democrat-controlled Senate won’t even touch it. To the ignorant or the Obama apologists, giving this story attention is equal to giving attention to other stories designed to show the president as a fool.

As an extension, the small but vocal industry of professional bloviators that thrive on incidents relating to racial injustice have not said a word about this story. You won’t find Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson rallying for the CFPB employees – as with the Capitol Hill Democrats, they will not get involved in anything that casts a shadow on the Obama Administration.

And from a TV standpoint, the story has no compelling visuals. The recent Ferguson riots made for dramatic television imagery, which helped to boost the ratings of several cable news outlets. But complaints about egregious human resources shenanigans in an obscure (to the general public) agency are not the same thing.

The trade media covering the financial services and housing industries, on the other hand, has mostly done a bravura job in keeping their spotlight on this matter. HousingWire, American Banker, Credit Union Times, DS News, The M Report and National Mortgage Professional have been keeping their respective audiences up to date on this issue. Because these fine outlets are all online, it is easy for Google-clicking Net denizens to read up on what their favorite news sites and TV channels have failed to cover.

The CFPB officials have made pledges that they will clean up their act and run a professional operation where racially hostile personnel policies cannot be allowed to exist. Personally, I’m skeptical – I can’t believe any promise made by a CFPB executive.

And for what it is worth, my advice to the beleaguered people working at the CFPB would be to look for better work elsewhere. Take it from one who has been there – life is too precious to be wasted at a crummy job where idiot managers treat you like garbage!

About The Author

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Phil Hall has been (among other things) a United Nations-based radio journalist, the president of a public relations and marketing agency, a financial magazine editor, the author of six books and a horror movie actor. Also, as you will discover, he is not shy about stating his views.