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In an interesting twist, late last week the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced the selection of former EEOC Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru to head a newly formed department, the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI). The newly formed office is required by the Dodd-Frank Act to develop standards to promote diversity at both the CFPB and the entities it regulates. The specific charge of the office, by statute, is to develop standards for:
•    Equal employment opportunity and the racial, ethnic and gender diversity of the workforce and senior management of the agency;
•    Increased participation of minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the CFPB’s programs and contracts; and
•    Assessing the diversity policies and practices of the CFPB’s regulated entities.

Ishimaru’s appointment is of interest to many of us who have been tracking the EEOC’s recent actions to quickly pass several new and somewhat controversial initiatives.  It’s likely that the EEOC was acting quickly to bring those initiatives to a vote prior to Ishimaru’s departure, at a time when a 3-2 favorable vote would be most likely.  The most recent meeting held April 25 included passage of new guidance on the use of criminal history in employment decisions by a 4-1 margin, but was passed without hearing, prior public disclosure or comment period, unleashing strong criticism from the Wall Street Journal and the US Chamber of Commerce among others.

Ishimaru’s prior stints include serving in senior positions in the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, and the Commission on Civil Rights. President George W. Bush nominated Mr. Ishimaru to the EEOC in 2003. President Barack Obama named Mr. Ishimaru Acting Chairman of the Commission in January 2009 – a role he held until April 2010. A press release was issued April 30th, 2012, announcing Ishimaru’s appointment.

If you are one of the many entities under the supervision and/or enforcement authority of the CFPB, get ready for a new era of oversight—not only with the mechanics and supervision of consumer transactions, but also in assessing diversity policies and practices. While the full scope of Ishimaru’s new post is not clear, we do know that the Bureau has very broad rulemaking and enforcement authority, and we are standing by for more specifics on Ishimaru’s plan and priorities going forward. If the past is any indication, we will see an aggressive agenda from this new office.

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