An independent investigation by the committee of inspectors general has concluded in a scathing report that Laura Wertheimer, the inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, “abused her authority” and undermined the integrity of her office by retaliating against employees who cooperated with a congressional investigation.
The Integrity Committee [IC], as the special panel is known, found that Wertheimer, who was appointed by President Obama in 2014, created and fostered “a culture of abuse and intimidation for her staff” focused on employees who cooperated with a congressional oversight investigation.
The allegations stem from a Republican investigation into whether Wertheimer sought to hamstring audits of the Federal Housing Finance Agency at the behest of its former director, Mel WattMelvin (Mel) Luther WattFannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform should put American taxpayers first Watchdog: Former Rep. Mel Watt attempted to ‘coerce’ employee into relationship Budding housing crisis must be nipped now MORE, who was also appointed by Obama in 2014.
The IC report recommends that Wertheimer’s actions warrant “consideration of substantial disciplinary action, up to and including removal.”
Sens. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland reverses Trump effort on tribal land | Senate confirms Janet McCabe as deputy EPA chief | Study finds quick action on methane could significantly cut into global warming Senate confirms Janet McCabe as deputy EPA chief Schumer waiting for recommendation on Supreme Court expansion MORE (R-Iowa) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSpotify’s Joe Rogan says ‘healthy’ young people don’t need to worry about getting COVID-19 vaccine Fauci says J&J vaccine pause won’t negatively impact hesitancy Fauci rebukes Johnson over questions on vaccine effort: ‘We are dealing with an emergency’ MORE (R-Wis.), who have been looking into alleged intimidation of employees inside the FHFA’s office of inspector general as far back as 2016, on Wednesday called on President BidenJoe BidenTulane adds Hunter Biden as guest speaker on media polarization Trump discussing resumption of MAGA rallies: report Biden’s unavoidable foreign policy crisis MORE to fire Wertheimer, citing the IC report.
“IG Wertheimer has failed to meet the duties described by the IG Act. Her behavior certainly falls far short of your calls for unity, transparency, and integrity,” they wrote in an April 28 letter to Biden.
“To put it mildly, the only thing this watchdog appears to hunt is her own employees. She should be removed from office, in a manner consistent with applicable statutory notification requirements,” they wrote.
As early as 2016, Grassley, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Johnson, then-chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, sought more information from Wertheimer’s office about its financing, hiring and firing practices and internal organization.
The FHFA’s office of inspector general was established in 2010 to oversee the federal government’s conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and regulate Federal Home Loan Banks.
Critics of the FHFA suspected that Wertheimer may had acted under pressure from Watt to weaken the oversight activities of the agency’s office of inspector general.
Beginning in 2017, the IC received multiple complaints alleging that Wertheimer and her inner circle “had grossly mismanaged” the office of audits within her office by implementing “coercive personnel actions and created a culture of retaliation and abuse,” according to the IC report.
Specifically, the report found that Wertheimer and a senior employee imposed on auditors within her office “an unachievable performance standard” that was “designed, sequenced and intended to coerce targeted auditors to accept” buyouts.
The report also found that Wertheimer “failed to resist or report to Congress threats by the FHFA director to cut the OIG’s budget and reduce the OIG’s staff and resources,” referring to Watt.
When the council of inspectors general and Senate Republicans tried to investigate the allegations, Wertheimer obstructed those efforts and intimidated employees who cooperated or might have thought about cooperating.
The report found that Wertheimer and her staff “refused to turn over certain documents to IC investigators and refused to make a key relevant witness … available to an interview.”
Witnesses told IC investigators that Wertheimer called employees who were interviewed by congressional staff as “Boris and Natasha,” the spy villains of the “Rocky and Bullwinkle.” Wertheimer initially denied to investigators that she called her staffers by the nicknames but later admitted that she “may” have done so, and subsequently admitted she was “sure” she had in fact called them those names.
She also referred to one of the employees who cooperated with congressional oversight as a “weasel” in front of other staff and purchased and distributed to her office a children’s book titled “Weasels.”