US FDIC special committee taps Cleary Gottlieb for sexual harassment probe


© Reuters. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) logo is seen at the FDIC headquarters as Chairman Sheila Bair announces the bank and thrift industry earnings for the fourth quarter 2010, in Washington, February 23, 2011.REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo

(Reuters) -A special committee at the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s governing board has tapped the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton to conduct an independent review of sexual harassment allegations and the agency’s workplace culture, the top bank regulator announced on Monday.

The Cleary Gottlieb team previously handled an investigation into misconduct allegations involving former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Executive Chamber, according to the announcement.

The review follows a series of Wall Street Journal reports last month according to which the FDIC had failed to eradicate toxic and misogynist workplace behavior that caused women to quit the agency.

The firm replaces BakerHostetler, which the FDIC had earlier tapped to conduct the review. BakerHostetler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The FDIC’s board of directors created a two-member special committee last month after Republicans insisted that FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg recuse himself from overseeing the review.

Republican lawmakers have demanded that Gruenberg resign and vowed to investigate the FDIC’s workplace culture, notably in light of Wall Street Journal reporting that he had himself earned a reputation for bullying and leniency in cases of alleged workplace misconduct.

Gruenberg has said he is personally troubled by the allegations and vowed to address them as a top priority.

Cleary Gottlieb partner Joon Kim, a former acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, will lead the team along with Jennifer Kennedy Park and Abena Mainoo.

“The Special Committee is committed to an independent and thorough review,” said committee member Michael Hsu, who is acting comptroller of the currency and serves on the FDIC board along with fellow special committee member Jonathan McKernan, a Republican.

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