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FDIC report outlines 'misogynistic,' 'patriarchal' 'good ol' boys' workplace culture

FATIMA HUSSEIN
May 07, 2024

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An independent review of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. 's workplace culture describes an environment that fostered "hostile, abusive, unprofessional, or inappropriate conduct," and questions whether the agency's chairman is credible to lead the agency through a cultural transformation.

The report released Tuesday by law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton outlines incidents of stalking, harassment, homophobia and other violations of employment regulations.

The incidents span from field offices to headquarters in Washington, and "arose within a workplace culture that is 'misogynistic,' 'patriarchal,' 'insular,' and 'outdated' -- a 'good ol' boys' club where favoritism is common, wagons are circled around managers, and senior executives with well-known reputations for pursuing romantic relations with subordinates enjoy long careers without any apparent consequence," the report states.

More than 500 workers reported incidents of harassment, discrimination and other issues.

The report comes after the Wall Street Journal last November published an article that outlined details of the agency's workplace culture. The FDIC's board ordered the review of its workplace culture last November.

FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg's behavior is also examined in the report, describing "deeply unsettling exchanges" between the chair and his subordinates. His "reputation raises questions about the credibility of the leadership's response to the crisis and the 'moral authority' to lead a cultural transformation," the report states.

"Far too many employees and for far too long, the FDIC has failed to provide a workplace safe from sexual harassment, discrimination, and other interpersonal misconduct," according to the report.

"We also find that a patriarchal, insular, and risk-averse culture has contributed to the conditions that allowed for this workplace misconduct to occur and persist, and that a widespread fear of retaliation, as well as a lack of clarity and credibility around internal reporting channels, has led to an underreporting of workplace misconduct over the years."

The agency last December released a plan to address the issues outlined in the report, which Gruenberg mentioned in an apology he posted to the agency's website on Tuesday.

"To anyone who experienced sexual harassment or other misconduct at the FDIC, I again want to express how very sorry I am," Gruenberg said. "I also want to apologize for any shortcomings on my part. As Chairman, I am ultimately responsible for everything that happens at our agency, including our workplace culture."

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have called on Gruenberg to resign from his post.

House Financial Services Committee Chair Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), said the report "makes clear new leadership is needed at the FDIC" and Sen. Tim Scott(R-S.C.), ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee said "it's time for Chairman Gruenberg to resign so the FDIC can move forward with the leadership it deserves and desperately needs."

The FDIC is an independent government agency that protects bank deposits in the event of a bank failure.

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