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Continuing our promise of diversity

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Today is my first day as the Director of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion at the CFPB. I am excited to be here and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to introduce myself and the work of my office to you.

I’m coming to the CFPB after serving nine years at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Commission). There I worked to protect the public from unlawful discrimination and harassment in all work situations, such as hiring, firing, promotions, training, wages, and benefits. In 2009, I was appointed the Acting Chairman of the Commission. In that role I helped the Commission recover over $370 million dollars in relief for victims of discrimination in the workplace. I was the first Administration official to testify before Congress in support of the proposed Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. I also led the Commission to adopt new guidance that helps employers avoid gender and disability discrimination against workers who have caregiving responsibilities to their families.

Earlier in my career, I was appointed the Acting Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and I served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice in its Civil Rights Division.

Some people fall into their line of work and others know exactly what they want early on. I think I’m a bit of both. Years ago I saw an opportunity to do great work for Americans who are often underrepresented and underserved. It has been my passion to work to ensure that those people have a voice and fair access to opportunities. I believe that equal opportunities, diversity, and inclusion are what make this country thrive – they are what make us great.

I came to the CFPB because I know this is a place that shares those same values. Here we have a team that understands that to help all consumers we need to have a wide range of perspectives in-house. Our Office of Minority and Women Inclusion will work to ensure that diversity and inclusion are more than just considerations; they are defining standards for the work we do.

The CFPB’s Office of Minority and Women Inclusion will ensure that the CFPB fulfills its commitment to diversity by:

  • Developing and implementing standards of equal employment;
  • Developing standards for assessing the diversity policies and practices of
    CFPB-regulated entities;
  • Advising on the impact of Bureau policies and regulations on minority and women-owned businesses; and
  • Coordinating with the Director to create and implement solutions to civil rights violations.

The CFPB has done a lot since July 2011 and as we near our one-year anniversary there is still much to be done. The Office of Minority and Women Inclusion is here to ensure that as we move forward, diversity and inclusion will continue to be essential guideposts for the CFPB and its work.

Fair Notice on Fair Lending

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Millions of Americans rely on loans and other credit products to attend college, buy cars, purchase homes, or open businesses. For many of us, access to credit makes it possible to achieve the American Dream of a better life for ourselves and our children. All too often, credit discrimination stands in the way of this access. It keeps worthy borrowers from the tools they need to reach their financial goals.

Credit discrimination is illegal. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), a creditor may not discriminate against you because of your race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age (as long as you are old enough to enter into a contract). It is also against the law for a creditor to discriminate against you because you receive public assistance income, or because you exercise in good faith any of your rights under the Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Discrimination is not always obvious. A borrower may not realize that she has been the victim of intentional discrimination on the basis of her race or sex. Moreover, lending policies that seem evenhanded can be illegal if they have a disproportionate, negative effect on a group that is protected under ECOA, such as women or seniors. Lending practices that produce these adverse effects are said to have a “disparate impact.” They are unlawful unless they meet a legitimate business need that can’t be met by an alternative that has a less disparate impact. Discrimination that disparately impacts borrowers in violation of the law hurts consumers and can threaten the economic stability of our communities. That is why the law has long recognized this form of unlawful credit discrimination.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is responsible for enforcing the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity at the CFPB helps ensure that all Americans have fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory access to credit, and we will use every tool at our disposal to protect American consumers.

Today we are giving fair notice on fair lending. We are letting both lenders and consumers know that in our examination and enforcement work, we will combat unlawful, discriminatory practices—including those that have an illegal disparate impact on protected borrowers. We will look not only at mortgage lending, but also at other types of credit including student loans, loans for cars, and credit cards.

Access to credit is critical to a successful financial future. At the CFPB, we are committed to fighting unlawful, discriminatory practices and creating a fair marketplace for all consumers.

Patrice Ficklin is the CFPB’s Assistant Director for the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity.

Addressing credit discrimination

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The CFPB is the first federal agency with the primary mission of making consumer financial markets work for American consumers. Congress charged us with ensuring that:

  • All consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services; and
  • Markets for consumer financial products and services are fair, transparent, and competitive.

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