Salaries and Qualifications
Federal government salaries, raises, and benefits have been subject to more intense scrutiny than ever as Congress continues to work to reduce the federal deficit. Most federal employees (over 1.5 million worldwide) are paid according to the General Schedule (GS). This pay scale encompasses employees in over 400 occupations ranging from manual laborers to highly trained doctors, lawyers, and scientists. The GS pay scale allows the most highly skilled and experienced employees to make no more than $155,000 per year—considerably less than they could make in the private sector.
CFPB Pay Schedule
Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB does not have to pay its employees under the GS scale and is authorized to create its own pay scale, the CR scale. Top employees on the CR pay schedule can be paid $259,500—over $100,000 per year more than employees on the GS Schedule.
To put these numbers in perspective, consider the following salaries:
- The Vice President of the United States: $230,700 per year.
- The Speaker of the House of Representatives: $223,500 per year.
- Majority and Minority Leaders in the U.S. House and Senate: $193,400 per year.
- Members of Congress: $174,000
- The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: $258,100 per year.
- Associate Justices of the Supreme Court: $246,800 per year.
- Cabinet-level Officials (e.g., Secretary of State, Attorney General, etc.): $199,700 per year.
- Deputy Secretaries, Secretaries of Military Departments, and Heads of Major Agencies: $178,700 per year.
Top CFPB staffers earn more than every government official other than the President of the United States. High salaries are not limited to just a handful of top staffers—the agency’s entire compensation system is higher than other branches of the federal government:
- 58 CFPB staffers earn more than cabinet secretaries.
- 700 employees (out of 1200) make more than $100,000 per year, which comprises 61% of employees.
- $18.45 per hour is the average pay for interns.
- Employees earned $750,000 in bonuses for FY 2012.
- 98 percent of CFPB employees make more than the U.S. average per capita income of $43,000 per year.
Training and Qualifications
The CFPB and its advocates insist that extremely high salaries are necessary to lure the most qualified candidates possible to work for the agencies, noting that these employees could earn much more in the private sector. However, the bureau is not necessarily hiring individuals who are prepared for their jobs at the CFPB, and the agency has been criticized by its own employees for failing to provide adequate training and failing to deal with low-performing employees.
Based on the CFPB’s internal survey of employees:
- Only 35.6 percent of employees agree or strongly agree that the CFPB takes steps “to deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve.”
- 64.6 percent of the staff do not see the CFPB as ensuring that employees are held accountable.
- A dismal 38.8 percent of employees agreed that the training they received was sufficient.
Despite outspending other agencies on salaries, the CFPB is still hiring employees without a firm background in banking laws. The agency spent $4,500 to send six of its top lawyers to a “Banking Law Fundamentals” class to “familiarize participants with the basics of banking law.” A FOIA request of CFPB emails by Judicial Watch found that one of the agency’s enforcement attorneys responded to the email inviting her to attend the class by saying, “This looks like an awesome agenda for a banking world novice like me.”
Extremely high levels of staff turnover in the agency also make it difficult for banks and other financial institutions to be evaluated by highly trained and experienced examiners. In a letter to the CFPB, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted that frequent turnover in supervisions staff and inconsistent training mean that competency levels vary dramatically between examination teams. The letter also stated that “Examiners appear to have no organized process for conducting the various categories of examinations, with initial and follow-up requests seemingly random (and of significantly different scope depending on the examination team).