Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, pushed Thursday for Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chair Martin Gruenberg to step down following allegations published in The Wall Street Journal last month that the agency ignored sexual misconduct and allowed a harmful workplace environment.
In a letter signed by Scott and four other committee Republicans, Sens. Thom Tillis, R-NC; Cynthia Lummis, R-WY; Kevin Cramer, R-ND, and Steve Daines, R-MT, the lawmakers mentioned reports where Gruenberg personally “built a reputation for bullying and for having an explosive temper” — leading lawmakers to demand multiple investigations of the agency’s culture.
“The culture of an organization is set from the top. As such, we have significant concerns with your ability to continue leading the FDIC as it seeks to clean up its public image and provide much-needed changes to its workplace culture to return the FDIC to working order,” the senators wrote Thursday. “Given the importance of the role of the FDIC in maintaining stability and public confidence in the nation's financial system, we call on you to step down as Chairman and Board Member and allow someone with more credibility to address the hostile workplace culture at the FDIC to which you have contributed.”
The letter's signatories cited examples from Wall Street Journal stories, saying the toxic culture continued for 10 years as Gruenberg served as chairman, acting chairman, vice chairman or a board member at the FDIC.
The senators also asked Gruenberg whether he had ever damaged a work phone or other piece of furniture and yelled at or angrily berated an FDIC employee. They questioned if the FDIC chair denied the recent allegations concerning the FDIC’s culture. And they asked if he acknowledged that the allegations hampered the agency's reputation and made it difficult for the FDIC to retain and hire employees.
Reps. Patrick McHenry, R-NC; Bill Huizenga, R-MI; and Andy Barr, R-KY, highlighted FDIC's staffing challenges in a letter to Gruenberg last month while quoting the agency’s April report on the failure of Signature Bank.
“Your report’s limited discussion of staffing challenges related to bank examiners did not consider how the longstanding toxic FDIC culture inhibits employee retention,” the lawmakers wrote at the time.
The senators on Thursday asked Gruenberg to provide a list of all complaints or investigations related to sexual harassment, gender and racial discrimination, or hostile work environment. They asked Gruenberg to inform his employees that they could “make a protected disclosure of information regarding waste, fraud, or abuse — including, but not limited to, sexual harassment or discrimination — or any other misconduct occurring at the FDIC” to Scott’s staff.
Scott’s call for Gruenberg’s resignation follows other lawmakers who have asked the FDIC head to step down.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA, started the call for resignation days after the Wall Street Journal report surfaced. During a hearing that week in front of the House Financial Services Committee, McHenry asked Gruenberg if he had ever been investigated for misconduct. Gruenberg said he had not but later acknowledged he was investigated in 2008 but that the complaint was dropped.
Tillis, meanwhile, took to X, formerly Twitter, after the hearing, demanding that Gruenberg resign. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-IA, echoed that call. “Not only did he fail his employees, he lied to Congress,” she wrote on X. “Accountability is coming.”
Ernst reiterated her call for ouster last week.
Democrats have not been as pointed in calling for Gruenberg to step down. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, called the WSJ reports “extremely concerning” and added the FDIC’s Office of the Inspector General should conduct an “independent and thorough investigation into the workplace culture at the agency.”
After the story was published, Gruenberg took responsibility for the agency’s culture and sought to rectify it.
“I bear responsibility for setting the tone for our culture,” Gruenberg said in a video seen by The Wall Street Journal. “I want to assure you that I'm committed to addressing these issues, including my own shortcomings.”
The FDIC has established a special board committee co-chaired by director Jonathan McKernan and the acting chief of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Michael Hsu, to supervise the investigation.