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FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg to Step Down Amid Workplace Culture Probe

FDIC Chair Gruenberg to resign after harassment probe reveals "misogynistic" culture; successor to be nominated soon.

By Mackenzie Crow

5/21, 03:02 EDT
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Key Takeaway

  • FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg to step down following a workplace harassment probe revealing a "misogynistic" culture at the agency.
  • Gruenberg's departure comes amid critical Basel III reforms, with President Biden set to nominate a successor soon.
  • Democrats aim to retain control of the FDIC board, ensuring continued regulatory momentum and addressing workplace culture issues.

Gruenberg to Step Down

Martin Gruenberg, the chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), has announced his intention to step down following an investigation that revealed a "misogynistic" workplace culture at the US banking regulator. Gruenberg, who has been with the FDIC since 2005, stated, "In light of recent events, I am prepared to step down from my responsibilities once a successor is confirmed." He added, "Until that time, I will continue to fulfil my responsibilities as chairman of the FDIC, including the transformation of the FDIC’s workplace culture."

The investigation, conducted by law firm Cleary Gottlieb, was commissioned by the FDIC in response to reports of harassment and discrimination against female employees. The findings described the FDIC as a "good ol’ boys club where favouritism is common, wagons are circled around managers, and senior executives with well-known reputations for pursuing romantic relations with subordinates enjoy long careers without any apparent consequence." The report also noted that Gruenberg had been observed losing his temper in ways that staff found offensive and inappropriate. Gruenberg apologized to staff in an internal memo, describing the report as "sobering."

Regulatory Reforms and Political Implications

Gruenberg's departure comes at a critical time as US bank regulators are moving to implement Basel III reforms, which would require banks to increase their capital requirements. These reforms are widely opposed on Wall Street and by both Republicans and some Democrats in Washington. Sam Michel, White House deputy press secretary, stated that President Joe Biden would "soon put forward a new nominee for FDIC chair" and expects the Senate to confirm the nominee quickly.

Naming Gruenberg’s successor while Democrats control the Senate, ahead of the 2024 general election, gives Biden more power over the next appointment, aiding the push to implement Basel III. Gruenberg’s presence at the FDIC until a successor is confirmed also means Democrats will retain a 3-2 majority on the agency’s board of directors. Michel praised Gruenberg, stating he "has helped protect the economy from financial instability and worked to ensure the banking system serves more Americans fairly," while also noting his commitment to swiftly implement the recommendations made in the recent report.

Workplace Culture and Leadership

The independent report by Cleary Gottlieb was produced in response to press accounts of harassment and discrimination against female employees at the FDIC. The findings painted a troubling picture of the workplace culture, describing it as a "good ol’ boys club" with prevalent favouritism and a lack of accountability for senior executives with reputations for pursuing romantic relations with subordinates. The report also highlighted instances where Gruenberg expressed anger in ways that staff found offensive and inappropriate.

Gruenberg, who has headed the FDIC for 10 of the past 13 years, acknowledged the issues raised in the report and apologized to staff in an internal memo. He described the report as "sobering" and emphasized his commitment to transforming the FDIC’s workplace culture. The announcement of his departure came just hours after Sherrod Brown, the Democratic chair of the Senate banking committee, urged the White House to replace him following further outreach from FDIC employees.

Management Quotes

  • Martin Gruenberg, Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC):

    "In light of recent events, I am prepared to step down from my responsibilities once a successor is confirmed."
    "Until that time, I will continue to fulfil my responsibilities as chairman of the FDIC, including the transformation of the FDIC’s workplace culture."
    "I have faithfully carried out the critically important mission of the FDIC to maintain public confidence and stability in the banking system."

  • Sam Michel, White House Deputy Press Secretary:

    "[Gruenberg] has helped protect the economy from financial instability and worked to ensure the banking system serves more Americans fairly... [and showed] his commitment to swiftly implement the recommendations made in the recent report."