Watt sexually harassed employee, report finds

by Ryan Smith19 Feb 2019

Former Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt is guilty of sexually harassing an employee of the agency, according to a report released by the FHFA’s Office of the Inspector General.

According to the report, Watt abused his position as FHFA director by attempting to “coerce or induce” the employee to “engage in a personal relationship with him.”

Watt allegedly offered the possibility of career advancement in return for sexual favors.

“We find that there are no circumstances under which it would be appropriate for the head of the FHFA to induce a subordinate employee to meet with him alone, in his apartment, for a conversation in which he professes his attraction for that employee and holds out opportunities for the employee to serve in specific executive positions over which he exercises total control,” the report said.

The finding stems from an accusation by FHFA special advisor Simone Grimes, who last year accused Watt of sexual harassment.  Grimes said that Watt made dozens of sexual advances toward her and withheld a pay raise when she refused those advances. In a lawsuit, Grimes also accused FHFA Inspector General Laura Wertheimer of taking retaliatory action against her for reporting the harassment.

Watt, a Democrat, denied the allegations, claiming they were politically motivated. He also refused to cooperate with a subsequent internal investigation.

The OIG report said that Watt “lacked candor” during investigators’ interviews with him, failing to mention “information that was material to our inquiry.” Watt had argued that he had a mentor-mentee relationship with Grimes and had not acted improperly.

“We are not persuaded by the explanations offered by the FHFA Director,” the report said.