Video: Sen. Kennedy calls for FDIC chair to resign after sexual harassment allegations. ‘You didn’t do anything about it, did you?’
During Wednesday’s Senate Banking Committee hearing, Sen. Kennedy asked FDIC chairman Martin Gruenberg about accusations of sexual misconduct in the agency
Sen. John Kennedy, member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, questioned the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Martin Gruenberg, about accusations of sexual harassment in his department on Wednesday.
Kennedy, R-La., asked, “Have you ever sexually harassed an employee at the FDIC?” Gruenberg responded, “No sir.”
“Apparently you’re the only one,” Kennedy replied.
A culture of ignoring sexual harassment
The Wall Street Journal led an investigation into FDIC offices across the United States, and from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., there appear to have been repeated complaints of sexual harassment.
Former FDIC bank examiner Lauren Lemmer said her decision to quit her position at the FDIC was influenced by male colleagues’ behavior toward her. She described her co-workers’ behavior, saying she was sent a nude photo, invited to a strip club and followed back to her hotel room on a work trip in Dallas, Texas.
While Kennedy questioned Gruenberg during the hearing, he mentioned Kelsi Foutz, who previously worked as an FDIC senior risk management examiner in Salt Lake City and San Francisco.
“The guy she (Foutz) was having lunch with complained to her about his marriage telling her he wasn’t having enough sex,” Kennedy said, before allegedly propositioning her inappropriately.
Kennedy asked, “Did you read that?” and Gruenberg replied, “I did, senator.” Kennedy followed up, “What did you do about it personally?”
Gruenberg said his position at the time did not require action. He said, “At that time, I didn’t have the responsibility of the chairman.” The senator responded, “You didn’t do anything, did you?”
“Not at that time, senator, no,” Gruenberg said.
Other allegations of sexual harassment include a female examiner’s anonymous report of receiving inappropriate photos while conducting a North Carolina bank exam in 2018. The Wall Street Journal included another incident in Denver when an FDIC supervisor slept with an employee, told his colleagues about it and pressured her to drink alcohol at work.
Gruenberg has been asked to step down
On Thursday, Kennedy sent a letter to Gruenberg, asking him to step down from his position due to his inaction amid sexual harassment accusations.
Kennedy wrote, “As a result of these troubling reports and your apparent unwillingness to address them, I call for your resignation so that a new chair can restore the professional culture at the FDIC that the American people expect from its institutions.”
Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., released a statement on “reports of wildly inappropriate conduct taking place at the FDIC” and attributed it to a “failure in leadership.”
A White House spokesperson told Politico, “Any reports of sexual harassment and discrimination are unacceptable, and we support the FDIC’s decision to conduct a thorough investigation,”
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., sent a letter to Gruenberg Friday morning on behalf of the Committee on Financial Services, and he announced an investigation into misconduct at the FDIC. He said, “the viability of your leadership is in question.”