FDIC Workers Describe Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: WSJ

Banking regulator Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was a toxic cesspool of misogyny that failed to punish male supervisors for vile acts that included sending female coworkers photos of their genitals and having sex with subordinates, according to an explosive published investigation. on Monday.

The agency has been slow to discipline workplace sexism in the years since the #MeToo movement, perhaps because the company is the worst offender. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday after a lengthy investigation.

The alleged incidents included an FDIC supervisor in Denver having sexual relations with his employee and then telling other colleagues and pressuring her to drink whiskey during work.

In other reported cases, high-level bank examiners texted female employees photos of their genitals and invited female employees to a strip club.

All of the unnamed men involved in these incidents remain employed at the FDIC, according to The Journal.

The toxic work environment and lack of punishment have left female employees feeling like they have no choice but to leave the company, The Journal reported following interviews with past and present FDIC employees, legal filings, union grievances, complaints about equal employment opportunity, emails and text messages. and other internal documents.

An investigation by The Wall Street Journal revealed the toxic workplace culture that has plagued the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for the past 10 years, including incidents in which male employees sent colleagues photos of their genitals and They pressured them to drink alcohol.

Examiners described the FDIC to The Journal as a sexualized boys’ club environment where women’s appearance was openly discussed.

In a shocking example that illustrated what the FDIC’s male-dominated workplace was like, a former FDIC employee recalled her male colleagues saying that women needed to use sex to get ahead, while staring at her.

Female colleagues also believed they were consistently given fewer opportunities than their male counterparts, according to the outlet’s more than 100 interviews with current and former employees, including more than 20 women who quit.

“It was just an accepted part of the culture,” Lauren Lemmer, a former examiner-in-training, told The Journal.

Kelsi Foutz, a former FDIC senior risk management examiner based in Salt Lake City and San Francisco, agreed.

“For a long time I had no perspective. It was just normal. You have to face it,” he told The Journal, recalling a time when he was told not to raise a concern about his 2018 performance review because the reviewer “just feels intimidated by tall, beautiful women.”

Two managers advised him to “just smile and make him feel good,” he said.

During one of their lunch breaks years earlier, in 2013, an examiner complained to Foutz, then 21, about not having enough sex with his wife, according to The Journal.

He told Foutz: “Obviously, if I walked into this office and you were naked, I would fuck you right here.”

Foutz said she was so shocked that she said nothing and never filed a complaint, then resigned last year over the company culture, The Journal reported.

Former FDIC examiner trainee Lauren Lemmer said a colleague once followed her to her hotel room during training in Dallas, other bank examiners invited her to a strip club in Seattle and a colleague sent her a naked photo unsolicited.
LinkedIn/Lauren Lemmer
A senior FDIC official allegedly once told Kelsi Foutz, a former FDIC senior risk management examiner, “Obviously, if I walked into this office and you were naked, I would fuck you right here.”
LinkedIn/Kelsi Foutz

Even when traveling outside the FDIC headquarters in Washington, D.C., what regulators typically do to examine and supervise banks across the country “to ensure operational safety and soundness,” according to the FDC site, the The sentiment remains the same, employees told The Journal.

The FDIC’s work culture was so palpable no matter where its personnel were located in the country that life on the road was nicknamed the “Wild West.”

One of the examiners who received a photo of a colleague’s penis was traveling with a team to take a bank exam in North Carolina in 2018, according to a text message reviewed by The Journal.

The woman, who remained anonymous, decided to avoid a confrontation over the matter because the team was staying at the same hotel and working closely together, she told the outlet.

Lemmer quit her job at the FDIC in 2013 after three years, during which, she said, a colleague followed her to her hotel room during training in Dallas, other bank examiners invited her to a strip club in Seattle, and They sent her naked unsolicited. photo of a colleague.

On top of all that, he was also denied opportunities to advance, he told The Journal.

Another San Francisco-based examiner, Neha Singh, joined the FDIC in 2017 as a trainee.

It was her first job after college and she was immediately sent to the so-called “Wild West,” where she told The Journal she felt pressure from her colleagues to go out drinking every night, especially while traveling.

When Singh joined the team for a drink, she said she felt “really taken advantage of at a time when I was totally vulnerable,” as her male colleagues apparently recorded how many glasses of wine she drank and persuaded her to drink more. according to the newspaper.

Singh resigned from the FDIC in 2022, in his first year after earning his commission, which meant he had achieved the full examiner designation.

Neha Singh joined the FDIC as a trainee in 2017 and resigned in 2022 due to toxic work culture.
LinkedIn/Neha Singh

She said she was explicit with senior managers in the office that she was leaving because of what she considered a culture of harassment and misogyny, according to The Journal. A manager told her that she had heard similar concerns from other women and that they knew it was a problem, she said.

FDIC examiners could spend up to 100 nights a year traveling and teams were often composed entirely or primarily of men.

Meanwhile, the 11-story hotel where the FDIC housed out-of-town employees when they arrived in Washington was described as a party center. Here, it was not uncommon for workers to vomit in the elevator or urinate on the ceiling after working all day and spending the night drinking heavily, the Journal reported.

The publication also cited an Instagram post from 2021 that referenced binge drinking culture.

Although it’s unclear what the photo was, the caption read: “If you haven’t vomited from the ceiling, were you ever really a FIS?”

FIS, the Financial Institutions Specialist, is the FDIC’s four-year examiner training program.

An FDIC spokesperson told The Post: “Harassment in any form is contrary to the FDIC’s values ​​and our deep commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. We have several training, reporting and supervision programs that strive to create a safe and equitable environment where all employees can feel valued and respected.”

“When we identify misconduct, we investigate and take appropriate action. Additionally, we continually seek employee feedback on ways to promote and improve culture through our Workplace Excellence Councils, Employee Resource Groups, and other means. To ensure we live up to our values, we will continue to conduct regular reviews of our programs and policies.”

Following the Journal’s findings being made public on Monday, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said the federal agency hired independent firm BakerHostetler to conduct a “top-to-bottom evaluation” of alleged harassment and discrimination in the banking regulator.

FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said following the Journal’s investigation that harassment and discrimination are “completely unacceptable” at the federal agency, which he said does not “turn a blind eye” to it.
fake images

“I encourage you to participate in this process,” Gruenberg told his workforce, according to The newspaper. “To the extent the evaluation identifies other actions we can take to strengthen our agency, we will not hesitate to implement them.”

He added that harassment and discrimination are “completely unacceptable” and said the agency does not tolerate them or “turn a blind eye.”

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