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"Why did female chairwomen tolerate the FDIC's terrible culture?"

When you hear of people vomiting in elevators, urinating from buildings and sending photos of their genitals, you usually think of old school banks or brokerage firms. Imagine my surprise, therefore, to find that it's not a bank where employees are accused of such behavior, but of the FDIC, the banking regulator, which asks its employees to adhere to 'highest ethical and professional standards.'

Needless to say, those employees also receive ethics training. And yet their behavior seems worse than that at many of the firms they regulate. 

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The revelations raise particular questions about the role of Sheila Bair, the former chair of the FDIC and Republican legislative aide. Bair was chair of the FDIC during the financial crisis from 2006 to 2011. It's not clear whether the culture described by the Wall Street Journal took root during Bair's tenure, or whether it's evolved under subsequent chair-people. While the current FDIC chair is a man (Martin Gruenberg), another woman (Jelena McWilliams) had the role for four years from 2018-2022. Gruenberg has now ordered an investigation. 

The presence of women at a senior level is curious. Why did these women allow such a male-dominated, bad-boy culture to persist and grow, driving out women and keeping them from attaining full professional responsibilities? This is a question that the investigation will hopefully answer. 

In the meantime, this is a reminder that internal cultural norms persist well beyond a few female faces at a senior level.

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William Lawson is the pseudonym of a veteran banker on Wall Street 

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Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: +44 7537 182250 (SMS, Whatsapp or voicemail). Telegram: @SarahButcher. Click here to fill in our anonymous form, or email editortips@efinancialcareers.com. Signal also available.

Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)

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AUTHORWilliam Lawson Insider Comment
  • ph
    photobug56
    15 November 2023

    Women reaching high positions are often attacked non-stop, and while they might want their position, they might try to 'fit in' rather than take action against poorly behaved men. IMHO, it's a bad strategy, but it's possible that other approaches don't work either.

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