A brand new expose out this week paints banking regulator the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as a toxic work environment where strip club visits, sex with underlings and drinking at work – not to mention male workers texting female co-workers photos of their genitals – were all part of the “day to day” culture.
The Wall Street Journal expose was out on Monday and hours later FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg announced that the agency has engaged BakerHostetler for a comprehensive review following. In a staff video, Gruenberg stated that necessary changes would be made based on the law firm’s findings.
The Journal’s investigation revealed several incidents at the FDIC, including a male supervisor in Denver engaging in sexual relations with an employee, bragging about it to colleagues, and encouraging her to consume alcohol during work hours.
Additionally, it was reported that senior bank examiners sent inappropriate images to female staff and extended invitations to a strip club, according to the Wall Street Journal. Despite these allegations, the implicated men remain on the FDIC’s payroll.
This ongoing issue of misconduct and the apparent absence of disciplinary action have reportedly forced many female employees to consider leaving the organization, as evidenced by interviews, legal documents, union complaints, EEOC filings, and various internal communications reviewed in the report.
The Journal reports that female examiners characterized the FDIC as a male-centric, sexually charged workplace, where discussions about women’s looks were common.
Highlighting the severity, a former female employee recounted male colleagues suggesting that women must resort to sexual favors for career advancement, while directly gazing at her. Additionally, the outlet’s extensive interviews, over 100 with current and former staff, including more than 20 women who resigned, indicate a widespread belief among female employees of unequal opportunities compared to their male counterparts.
Lauren Lemmer, a former examiner-in-training, commented: “It was just an accepted part of the culture.”
Examiner, Neha Singh who joined in 2017 said she felt pressured to drink every night. “I felt really taken advantage of in a moment where I was totally vulnerable,” she said after being told “You seem a little arrogant” when declining drinks with co-workers.
Singh resigned from the FDIC in 2022, within her first year of becoming a fully qualified examiner, having just received her commission. She stated that she clearly informed the senior management that her departure was due to what she perceived as a culture of harassment and misogyny. According to Singh, one of the managers acknowledged hearing similar complaints from other female employees and admitted it was an issue.
Another former employee, Kelsi Foutz, said: “For the longest time, I didn’t have any perspective. It was just normal. You deal with it.”
She remembered a time when she was told not to bring up issues she was having about her 2018 performance review because the reviewer, she was told, was just “intimidated by tall, beautiful women.”
“Just smile and make him feel good,” her male counterparts told her. One male co-worker told her in 2013: “Obviously if I walked into this office and you were naked, I’d f–k you right here.”
The Journal reported that female FDIC staffers said the agency’s toxic work culture persisted nationwide, not just at its Washington, DC headquarters. This pervasive atmosphere, especially during offsite bank examinations, led to it being termed the “Wild West.”
In one instance, a female examiner, while on a 2018 North Carolina assignment, received an unsolicited explicit image from a colleague but chose not to confront him due to close work proximity. Additionally, Lemmer, who left the FDIC in 2013, recounted various incidents of inappropriate behavior, including being followed to her hotel room, invited to a strip club, and receiving an explicit photo, all of which coincided with her being overlooked for career advancement, the report says.
You can read the Journal’s full expose here.