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FHFA Dir. Watt’s Accuser, Simone Grimes, Answers Rep. Meeks Question on Culture of Harassment at Agency

September 27, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, Senior Member of the House Financial Services Committee, provided the following remarks during the “Oversight of the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s role as conservator and regulator of the Government Sponsored Enterprises” Hearing. Simone Grimes, a Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) employee who recently accused FHFA Director Mel Watt of sexual advances, answered the Congressman’s question about what structural or cultural issues at the agency may be perpetuating a culture of harassment and discrimination:

Rep. Meeks: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you Ms. Grimes.”

 “Let me first absolutely associate myself to the opening remarks of both Chairman Hensarling and Ranking Member Waters and, and full disclosure as ranking member Waters has done, I need to just say that I had been a friend and colleague of Director Watt for my entire [time] being here in the United States Congress.

But also, I have three daughters and I am deeply concerned about allegations and I appreciate you coming here, and having the courage to come here, and to testify, and to speak on your scenario and what has taken place to you.

And I do believe that Congress has an oversight role to play when it comes to diversity and inclusion in our workforce, encouraging diversity, and inclusion demand stamping out a culture of sexual harassment that often times limits women and minorities’ career advancement. It limits their success and limits their wellbeing, and we must make sure that that does not happen. It is just not the right thing to occur, I don’t know how I would feel if my daughter – Well, I know how I would feel.

So it is, I think, courageous upon you, but it is important that you are here testifying today. In listening to your testimony and reading the letter, your attorney talked about the cozy relationship between the FHA, FHFA’s director, and the IG’s perpetuated harassment, discrimination and retaliation against you.

In addition to this, I know I was listening to some of the questions that others have asked and I was wondering if there was other things that you might be able to tell us, you know, as far as the structural or cultural issues at the agency that continue and may foster a culture of harassment and discrimination that we, in this committee and Congress in general, should be aware of. For example, do you feel like there were adequate human resources at FHFA for potential victims of sexual harassment and is there something that we should be looking at as Congress to make sure that those resources are there so that this would not happen to someone ever again?

Ms. Grimes: “Thank you very much. Thank you for the question Congressman, and I have followed your career and I am also a fan of yours. Thank you. And I do appreciate that it is challenging to enter into this hearing with friendships, and I appreciate that you’ve put that to the side for today’s purposes. In terms of factors that plague the agency that have made it challenging for people to come forward, I believe that the way that the agency is currently structured, those entities that may be designed to protect the interests of employees certainly have taken the posture that they are there to defend the agency and its staff, senior staff, regardless of what they’ve done.

I found HR to be particularly unhelpful in this matter. I found that our Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, which directs – reports directly to Director Watt, at a lower level made some attempts to bring independence into this issue by engaging the United States Postal Service. I think that their level of ability to exercise anything beyond that is limited, since the decision making ultimately goes to the head of Human Resources, and I have found that our office of General Counsel, as regards to this matter, has been not only hostile, it has been very threatening towards me throughout this process.

“So, in approaching a situation like this, not only are you hurt by what has happened, but you quickly learn that all of the agency mechanisms that you hope would have a sympathetic ear are slightly hostile and make clear that their position is not to support you but to defend their client, regardless of what their client has done.”

Rep. Meeks: “I thank you. I yield back the balance of my time.”