Senators Seek FHFA Watchdog Removal over Alleged Staff Abuse

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Two U.S. senators said Federal Housing Finance Agency Inspector General Laura Wertheimer should be removed from office after a report that she abused staff at the regulatory agency.

Republicans Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden dated Wednesday that Wertheimer should be forced out based on the findings in a report by a panel of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency that substantiated allegations of misconduct by Wertheimer and several of her employees.

Allegations included abuses of authority involving coercive personnel actions and privacy violations by sharing personal details of an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint with unauthorized personnel, the senators wrote. Whistle-blowers said Wertheimer “severely hindered the audit mission of the OIG” and that she sought to identify and disparage those who brought these complaints to Congress, the letter said.

“Wertheimer’s willful actions to impede an investigation into her own alleged misconduct and support of an environment that condones the intimidation of witnesses show that she lacks the attributes reasonably expected of an IG,” the senators wrote in their letter. “The only thing this watchdog appears to hunt is her own employees. She should be removed from office.”

Wertheimer was nominated by then-President Barack Obama and confirmed in 2014 as the top official responsible for detecting and deterring waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct at the federal agency and the programs it oversees, including FHFA’s conservatorship and regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The FHFA Office of Inspector General didn’t respond to messages seeking comment Wednesday afternoon. A lawyer representing Wertheimer sent a statement Wednesday evening, saying that she is a “superlative” inspector general and that and members of her oversight committee have commended her service.

“The investigative report did not find that even a single witness had declined to cooperate out of intimidation or fear,” and it did not find evidence of actual retaliation, according to the emailed statement from Emmet Flood, who previously served as Donald Trump’s top White House lawyer for the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

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