Top housing regulator Mel Watt declined to participate in an investigation of claims that he had sexually harassed a woman who worked for him, according to portions of the investigator’s report obtained by POLITICO.
Watt, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, wrote in a July 23 email to the investigator that his counsel had advised that he was not subject to FHFA harassment rules: Under the relevant statute, he wrote, “presidential appointees confirmed by the United States Senate are specifically excluded from this definition.”
Agency employee Simone Grimes this year accused Watt, who oversees mortgage-financing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, of repeatedly making sexual advances when she tried to discuss salary concerns. An office within the U.S. Postal Service conducted the administrative investigation to keep the review independent from the FHFA. The FHFA inspector general opened a parallel probe.
“As I am cooperating fully with investigation that the FHFA Office of Inspector General is undertaking of the allegations Ms. Grimes has made against me, a full investigation of this matter will occur without your interview of me,” Watt wrote to the USPS contract investigator.
Watt said he was “confident that the investigation currently in progress will confirm that I have not done anything contrary to law,” in a July email to POLITICO, which first reported that he was under investigation.
Grimes in August sued the agency for $1 million for allegedly paying her less than a male counterpart and claiming she was denied a pay increase as retaliation for rejecting Watt’s advances.
The FHFA declined a request to comment. Bloomberg first reported Watt’s refusal to participate.