The report found that Wertheimer “showed a disdain and resistance” toward oversight from Congress and the Integrity Committee and that she fostered “a culture of witness intimidation through a pattern of staff abuse and fear of retaliation.” The report said that Wertheimer wrongfully refused to cooperate with investigators from the Integrity Committee by denying them complete access to office staff and documents.
Wertheimer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a letter to staff on Tuesday, a copy of which was obtained by The Post, Wertheimer did not acknowledge the Integrity Committee’s report or its allegations. She wrote that “President Biden should have the opportunity to fill both the FHFA Director and IG positions with his own nominees” and that she “had no intention of staying for seven years.” Wertheimer will leave her post at the end of July.
However, Wertheimer’s attorney, Emmet T. Flood, disputed the findings in the report.
Flood told The Post on Tuesday that Wertheimer played no role in deciding what materials to provide to investigators and that she did not obstruct or resist the fact-finding mission. Flood said it was difficult to respond to specific complaints about intimidation since the report did not include witness names.
“There was no evidence of retaliation against witnesses,” Flood said. “There was no evidence offered of intimidation.”
The report included complaints of a toxic work environment in which Wertheimer called people by “demeaning nicknames,” including “Boris and Natasha,” the spy villains in the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoon series. Wertheimer also used the term “weasel” to disparage staff, and reinforced the message by buying and distributing a children’s booked titled “Weasels” around the office. Photos of the children’s book were obtained by The Post.
Flood acknowledged that Wertheimer used the term “weasel” in private to a small group of staff years ago.
However, Flood added that the allegations about a toxic office culture were years old and that there had been no complaints about office culture since.
Since the report’s release, many people close to federal inspectors general wondered whether the Biden administration would remove Wertheimer. In many instances, the concern was that the allegations against Wertheimer were not only serious in their own right, but that they also directly undermined the role of an inspector general and the independence they are afforded to uphold their jobs.
The Integrity Committee is a body within the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. The job of the committee is to investigate allegations of misconduct against inspectors general.
Earlier this year, the Integrity Committee report prompted two top Republican lawmakers — Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) — to call on the Biden administration to remove Wertheimer. In a statement at the time, the lawmakers wrote that “to put it mildly, the only thing this watchdog appears to hunt is her own employees.”
In a statement following Wertheimer’s resignation on Tuesday, Grassley said: “Whistleblower after whistleblower shared stories with my office about Ms. Wertheimer’s professional misconduct.... That’s not what our government needed, and it took longer than it should have for this change.”
Wertheimer’s role got renewed attention since the White House recently announced a different leadership shake-up at FHFA. Last week, the administration removed the agency’s director, Mark Calabria, a libertarian economist appointed by President Donald Trump, and named Sandra L. Thompson as acting director. The switch came immediately after the Supreme Court ruled that the FHFA’s leadership structure was unconstitutional because it limited the president’s ability to remove the FHFA director, except “for cause.”
Many people tied to the work of inspectors general grew frustrated over the past week that the White House did not also replace Wertheimer. The White House declined to comment on Wertheimer’s resignation on Tuesday.