FDIC chief faces bipartisan pressure after sexual harassment, abuse allegations

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Democratic and Republican lawmakers are calling for an investigation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) following a series of reports by the Wall Street Journal on an alleged culture of sexual harassment, misogyny and general vulgarity toward women.

“The reports are extremely concerning,” Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in a Thursday statement.

“I am calling for the FDIC’s Office of the Inspector General to conduct an independent and thorough investigation into the workplace culture at the agency.”

The Wall Street Journal reports also raised concerns about FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg’s management of the agency. FDIC employees told the Journal that Gruenberg “set a tone that left alleged harassment and discrimination unpunished at the bank regulator.”

“Chairman Gruenberg has a lot of explaining to do,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said in a Thursday statement.

“Yesterday, he initially misled the Committee regarding an investigation into his own alleged misconduct. In light of the most recent reporting from the Wall Street Journal, his subsequent clean up job was a clear understatement.”

Republicans in particular have been taking the opportunity to blast the FDIC, riding a wave of disapproval toward financial regulators that swelled earlier this year after the biggest collapses in the banking sector since the 2007-2008 financial failures.

“The reports of sexual harassment and a toxic workplace culture at the FDIC, as well as the mismanagement allegations against Chair Gruenberg, are alarming and unacceptable,” Senate Banking Committee ranking member Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said in a Thursday statement.

“These allegations deserve a thorough and independent review followed by forceful action, and I look forward to being kept informed on this matter,” he said.

Scott questioned whether Gruenberg was fit to lead the agency.

“He should seriously consider if he possesses the leadership the FDIC requires at this moment to restore confidence in the agency,” Scott said.

Senate Small Business Committee ranking member Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said Gruenberg should resign.

“FDIC Chair Gruenberg’s reported behavior and the reports of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse permeating this agency under his watch are damning. Not only did he fail his employees, he lied to Congress. Accountability is coming. He should resign,” Ernst wrote online.

The Wall Street Journal’s investigation of the FDIC involved interviews with more than 100 current and former employees, including more than 20 women who left the agency, according to the paper.

“Female examiners left the FDIC because of what they say was a sexualized, boys’ club environment and the belief they were consistently given fewer opportunities than their male counterparts,” the Journal’s investigation found.

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