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May 15, 2024

Pressley Slams Gruenberg for Toxic Culture at FDIC, Jeopardizing Critical Financial Regulations

“You have fueled calls for your resignation from the political opportunists across the aisle and jeopardized critical regulations pending finalization at your agency.”

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Today, in a House Financial Services Committee hearing, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) discussed the essential work of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and criticized FDIC leadership and Chair Martin Gruenberg specifically for failing to address reported persistent and widespread sexual harassment at the agency, and in turn jeopardizing critical financial regulations pending at the agency. The hearing follows damning reports of a toxic work environment at FDIC that detailed rampant sexual harassment, discrimination, and other misconduct under Gruenberg and his predecessors.

Congresswoman Pressley, who is herself a survivor of sexual violence and a champion for survivors’ justice, also questioned Chairman Gruenberg on why perpetrators of harassment were not held accountable by the agency and urged him to clarify on the record that no employee will face retaliation for reporting harassment.

A full transcript of the Congresswoman’s exchange with Chair Gruenberg is available below and the full video is available here.

Transcript: Rep. Ayanna Pressley Calls for Resignation of FDIC Chairman Gruenberg
House Financial Services Committee
May 15, 2024

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The work of the FDIC is paramount in supervising our banks, strengthening our financial system, finalizing important regulations, like Community Reinvestment Act and Basel III.

And in times of economic crisis, FDIC is even more important.

It was just last year when folks in my district, the MA Seventh, were constantly refreshing the agency’s webpage to see if their money was safe after the failure of Silicon Valley Bank.

The agency’s mission is critical, and there is much work to do.

I had initially planned to spend this time discussing regulations and requesting updates from Chair Gruenberg on the timeline for finalizing rules that stabilize our financial system.

However, after reading the recent report into the FDIC’s workplace, the public needs answers on the toxic culture of racial discrimination and misogyny that has taken root and festered at the FDIC.

Chair Gruenberg, you have failed your staff, people of every walk of life, but especially women employees who have brought their knowledge and their skills to serve at the FDIC, and you have failed the American public who relies on the agency to work productively and to put forth policies that protect consumers from bank malfeasance.

Now, I have to just consider the source here when it comes to some of the outrage from my colleagues across the aisle because these are the same people who seek to actively defund diversity, equity and inclusion, who denied and undermined the Me Too Movement, who voted against the Violence Against Women Reauthorization, and who don’t want to support finally passing the Equal Rights Amendment.

And that is why I am truly disgusted by the fact that you have created an opportunity for Republicans who did all of those things to advance their anti-regulation agenda and to use survivors – which I am one – of abuse as political pawns.

Moreover, there is not one woman on this panel, and I almost walked out just on the strength of that, but the only reason why I didn’t is because that is a systemic issue here in Congress and often for people who come before this committee.

And if you don’t have one woman in a position of leadership and authority that should be there, then that is also a problem. But again, women, hundreds of women. The report detailed hundreds of women who experienced harassment with no recourse.

For over a decade, the FDIC under your leadership, and your predecessors ignored them. Chair Gruenberg, in November in fact, not that long ago, you stated that the FDIC already has “appropriate policies and procedures in place.”

Do you now agree, and this is a yes or no question – I’m serious – do you now agree that the policies and procedures in place have been a cataclysmic failure and an affront to the many women who have been harassed, pushed out of the FDIC, and forced to change the career goals and life trajectory?

CHAIR GRUENBERG: They have failed, yes, Congresswoman.

REP. PRESSLEY: Small, ashamed, traumatized, humiliated, alone.

These are just a few of the words to describe the intense feelings of sexual harassment and what survivors endure.

According to the FDIC’s own reporting more than 80% of harassment complaints resulted in zero discipline. And when there were repercussions, not a single one resulted in removal, reductions in grade or pay, or any discipline more serious than a temporary suspension.

I am so tired of white men failing up. This lack of accountability is a shameful, inadequate, and deeply unsatisfactory and it is retraumatizing.

Chair Gruenberg, can you guarantee right now, no employee at the FDIC will face any form of intimidation or retaliation for reporting an incident of sexual harassment regardless of confidentiality agreements?

CHAIR GRUENBERG: That’s our goal. Congresswoman. Yes, the answer to that is yes.

REP. PRESSLEY: It is shameful that through your inadequate leadership at the helm of this agency that you have fueled calls for your resignation from the political opportunists across this aisle and jeopardized critical regulations, pending finalization at your agency.

Personally, I do not have confidence that you can continue to lead in this role because there is a deficit of trust and your credibility has been undermined to lead the FDIC through the changes it needs to make to affirm the dignity of the survivors of harassment, discrimination and abuse at your agency.

Thank you and I yield.