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CFPB’s spending comes under fire

Tom Fitton,

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has come under fire for its spending habits, including expenses in sign language translation services, basic banking classes for agency attorneys and staff salaries.

A document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the consumer watchdog is party to a contract that allows it to spend approximately $465,000 for sign language translation services in 2012, CNN Money reports.

The CFPB said that the services allow the agency to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as assist deaf employees and provide translation services for participants at meetings and activities. The agency said that it has only used $54,000 of the allotted amount and that the translation firm will refund any unused funds.

The CFPB spent $4,500 this summer to enroll six staff members in a banking law fundamentals class at George Washington University. The course was “a comprehensive introduction to banking law regulation for attorneys, consultants and bank professionals” designed to “familiarize participants with the basics of banking law,” an email sent to CFPB employees said, according to CNN Money.

The agency defended its expenses, saying that the CFPB’s attorneys are required to continue their legal education in order to remain licensed and that the class was a way for staff lawyers to complete some of those requirements.

Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, the organization that obtained the financial records, said that the CFPB’s spending is “wasteful,” adding that the agency is not hiring properly trained individuals. Fitton pointed to an email in which a CFPB enforcement lawyer who wished to participate in the class referred to herself as a “banking world novice,” CNN Money reports.

Financial records obtained by Judicial Watch last year revealed that some CFPB staff members receive large salaries. Twelve high-level employees were paid more than $225,000 each in 2011.

Richard Cordray, the director of the CFPB, is set to collect a $180,000 salary this year. His salary is set by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and is lower than the $226,000 he was previously paid as director of enforcement at the agency. Raj Date, the deputy director at the CFPB, will collect a $243,000 salary this year.

“I don’t see how conservatives or liberals could like that key regulators are having to take basic banking classes at an agency like this,” Fitton said, according to CNN Money. “Given the salaries you would think they could work from day one [without banking classes], but they can’t.”

The CFPB said that its expenses are not coming out of taxpayer pockets because the agency is still funded by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The agency employs 850 individuals and has an annual budget of $329 million for 2012.

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