Democrat Richard Cordray received favorable coverage this week from NBC affiliate WTAP, which gave a platform to Cordray’s wife that she used to tout his record of promoting women “to the top” positions of power.
Former Ohio First Lady Frances Strickland, wife of former Gov. Ted Strickland, made stops in Marietta and Athens Thursday, seeking to round up votes for Cordray among Ohio women. When the cameras turned to Cordray’s wife, Peggy, WTAP allowed her to promote her husband’s record of promoting women “to the top” management positions throughout his career.
Women will have a “large presence” in a Cordray administration, “including the top levels,” Peggy Cordray said.
Watch the report below, as tweeted by Richard Cordray, who is running against Republican Mike DeWine on the Nov. 6 ballot.
My wife Peggy somehow seems to do it all! In addition to being the breadwinner for our family and a first-rate professor, she’s a great Mom and also a tremendous advocate for working women in Ohio. pic.twitter.com/3rtdwiuUZV
— Rich Cordray (@RichCordray) October 27, 2018
What WTAP failed to mention is that Cordray was dogged by a trail of complaints from female employees who worked under him at his last job. He headed the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for six years in the Obama administration.
The agency was plagued by complaints from women saying they were not treated fairly and given the same opportunities for promotion as their male colleagues — in direct contrast to what Peggy Cordray says in the WTAP News report.
Cordray’s leadership style sparked so many EEOC complaints by women and minorities that the U.S. House of Representatives decided to hold a series of investigative hearings on the matter.
Twenty five percent of black, Asian and female employees of the bureau told the General Accountability Office in a survey that they “had been discriminated against at the CFPB.”
The GAO released a blistering 79-page report on June 20, 2016 under the title “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Additional Actions Needed to Support a Fair and Inclusive Workplace.”
This report, based on surveys of Cordray’s employees, found widespread unfair and discriminatory treatment of women employees in 2013 and 2014.
Below is a quote directly from the 2016 GAO report:
For survey items on these issues, more than 25 percent of respondents bureau-wide had unfavorable views, and dissatisfaction was above 35 percent in some CFPB offices and demographic groups. For example, about one-third of respondents disagreed with the statement that success at CFPB is based more on merit than on personal connections or favoritism.”
Liz Mair, a Republican strategist deeply familiar with Cordray’s record as CFPB director, said Cordray has “largely succeeded in pulling the wool over way too many Ohioans’ eyes with regard to his supposed bona-fides as a champion of women, minorities and LGBTQ individuals.”
“But the sad fact is that his CFPB was plagued with discrimination and harassment claims that would make national-media organizations and Hollywood blush.”
Mair said the Ohio media has declined to report these facts because Cordray is a “dishwater-dull, lackluster snooze-fest” candidate.
In August, The Ohio Star published an in-depth investigation into the Cordray-led CFPB, exposing what ex-employees and government investigators called “a toxic and retaliatory” workplace environment.
More than 200 complaints were filed between August 2013 and March 2014, with many of the employees describing the abuses as widespread.
Angela Martin, a senior enforcement attorney at the bureau, was one such employee.
In 2014, Martin told lawmakers at an oversight hearing of the House Financial Services Committee that she was discriminated against by managers. When she complained, she said, she was punished by being isolated and “stripped of responsibility,” reported Peter Schroeder in an April 2, 2014 article for The Hill titled “Employee Blasts CFPB As Hostile Environment.”
Misty Raucci, a former investigator with Defense Investigators Group who examined CFPB issues at the request of the bureau, criticized managers for creating an intolerable workplace, according to The Hill. The environment at Martin’s branch at the CFPB was “one of exclusion, retaliation, discrimination, nepotism, demoralization, devaluation, and other offensive working conditions which constitute a toxic workplace for many of its employees,” she said.
Martin testified before the House oversight committee that “Women and minorities were singled out at the agency, deprived of training opportunities, suffered pay discrepancies with white male colleagues, and were passed over for promotions.”
Robert Cauldwell, who served five years at the agency until his retirement due to health issues, said he saw all the workplace complaints in his dual role as the first president of the CFPB labor union.
Cauldwell, 46, testified at the fifth congressional oversight hearing in June 2015 titled “Examining Continuing Allegations of Discrimination and Retaliation at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” At this hearing he described a level of abuse he said he had never experienced in all his years of service in the U.S. Army, as a regulator at the FDIC, or his private-sector jobs. He told The Star that black women encountered some of the most egregious treatment at the agency.
He called the abuses “systemic” and “beyond the pale.”
“This idea that Rich Cordray was fair to employees and a proponent of inclusiveness is just wrong. It’s a joke,” he said. “Not only was there unfair systems in place but we had the most EEOC complaints of any agency in the federal government even though we were one of the smallest agencies, by far, with only about 1,200 people at the time.”
Cauldwell said Cordray did not hire the abusive managers – most were hired by his mentor Sen. Elizabeth Warren – but when informed of the abuses, he did nothing.
While the CFPB only admitted discrimination against one woman, Cauldwell said the agency shelled out $5 million in back pay to cover mismanaged performance reviews.
“This idea that Rich Cordray was fair to the minorities was just wrong,” he said.
“If this had been a private-sector company or any other agency they would have thrown him [Cordray] out on his ear,” said Cauldwell. “When I asked Elizabeth Warren about this I got no answer. Fifty percent of black women felt they were discriminated against, 25 percent of all minority employees, that is a huge, huge number, so for Rich to say he supported inclusiveness is appalling, pathetic and a sham.”
Another 25-year employee, an examiner who was African-American, was asked by her manager to change a case report.
“You’re telling me to rewrite my exam report, and what authority do you have for that?” the woman reportedly asked.
“They crucified her for asking why,” Cauldwell said. “She just asked what qualifications they had to ask her to change a report, so they gave her a review rating of 1 [on a scale of 1 to 5]. Only African-American females got 1s. I was one of the few who saw all the reports due to my position as union president, and I can tell you, only African-American females, five of them, got a 1.”
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.