(Reuters) -A top U.S. banking regulator faced mounting pressure on Thursday over his handling of allegations of sexual misconduct among agency staff, with Republican officials vowing a thorough probe and insisting on his recusal from an internal investigation.
The gathering controversy followed media reporting earlier this week according to which the U.S. Federal Desposit Insurance Corporation had failed to eradicate widespread harassment in its workforce.
In congressional testimony this week, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said he found the reports personally troubling and vowed to take corrective action as a top priority, adding that the agency had successfully acted on recommendations from an internal watchdog in 2020 but that more work remained to be done.
Gruenberg did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, FDIC Vice Chairman Travis Hill and board member Jonathan McKernan said that “at a minimum” Gruenberg and FDIC General Counsel Harrel Pettway should recuse themselves from the internal review of workplace conduct at the agency.
That statement came two hours after FDIC officials abruptly announced the cancellation of a Thursday public meeting at which board members had been due to consider a proposal on recouping losses from the failure of large banks earlier this year.
The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported allegations of sexual misconduct among staff between 2010 and 2022 at agency outposts nationwide, citing interviews with more than 20 women who had quit.
In a separate statement, Patrick McHenry, the Republican chair of the House Financial Services Committee, announced his committee would conduct a “rigorous investigation, including hearings, oversight and transcribed interviews.”
“It is clear Mr. Gruenberg never should have been reappointed or confirmed in the first place,” McHenry said.
McHenry also said Gruenberg had “initially misled” the committee during testimony on Wednesday, at first claiming he had not been the subject of an investigation to his workplace conduct before acknowledging that he had.