‘Special inquiry’ underway over workplace culture at FDIC in wake of sexual harassment claims, inspector general advises in memo

A “special inquiry” into the workplace culture of the federal bank deposit insurance agency is underway by the agency’s inspector general, “with respect to harassment and related misconduct,” according to a memo released by the agency publicly Friday.

The memo (a “management advisory”) from Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) Inspector General Jennifer L. Fein was addressed to FDIC Board Chairman Martin Gruenberg. In it, Fein wrote that “the OIG must have a comprehensive awareness of misconduct allegations at the FDIC in order to determine whether we should initiate audit, evaluation, or investigative work, or refer a matter to another entity.”

Fein said that the objective of the special inquiry is to determine four points:

  • employee perceptions of the FDIC workplace culture with respect to harassment, or related misconduct, and management actions;
  • FDIC management’s actions to review, process, and address complaints of harassment and related misconduct, including the management of related litigation;
  • FDIC executives’ knowledge of harassment and related misconduct and what actions (if any) were taken in response; and
  • factual findings regarding select allegations that senior officials personally engaged in harassment or related misconduct.

The inspector general said the management advisory was intended to inform Gruenberg of “concerns the OIG has identified during the course of the special inquiry that we believe require your immediate attention.” Those include misconduct allegations by senior FDIC officials “not reported to the OIG in a timely maner,” Fein wrote. She did not detail those allegations.

However, the IG said her office is now reviewing the allegations to determine how they should be incorporated into OIG work plans. Further, she said the office is making follow-up requests to several offices within the FDIC (such as the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion [OMWI]) “to identify if there are additional allegations that have not been reported to the OIG.”

The IG also told Gruenberg that agency offices primarily responsible for receiving misconduct allegations “should coordinate with the OIG to develop and implement a process to notify the OIG of misconduct allegations.”

The memo said that FDIC-wide communications to employees about the various options for reporting misconduct should include the OIG Hotline as an option. “Lastly, we suggest the Chairman and Inspector General send a Global Message to the FDIC workforce restating FDIC employees’ obligation to report allegations of misconduct to the OIG,” Fein said.

On May 7, a special committee appointed by the FDIC Board said that allegations of sexual harassment went on “far too long” at the agency, and that Gruenberg played a role by responding to the allegations by displaying his temper.

On May 20, Gruenberg said he would step down as FDIC chairman when a successor is confirmed by the Senate. The White House subsequently signaled it would nominate a successor soon.

Management Advisory Memorandum on Reporting Allegations of Misconduct