FDIC employees undergo training at the agency’s facilities in Arlington, Virginia, pictured above. Many employees travel frequently for work, sometimes up to 100 days out of the year. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Back from the liquor store, men are stumbling into the elevators and heading to the roof, where they’ll spend the rest of the night getting drunk. Some of them will urinate and vomit off the roof. Others will send nude photos to women, and perhaps attempt to sleep with them. 

This is not a frat house. This is a United States federal agency.

That’s according to The Wall Street Journal, which on Monday published a lengthy investigation into the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., one of the nation’s top banking regulators. More than 100 current and former employees told the paper that the FDIC’s “boys’ club” company culture is defined by sexual harassment, heavy drinking and misogyny. 

“It was just an accepted part of the culture,” said one woman, who served as an examiner-in-training at the FDIC. She told the Journal that male colleagues routinely inquired about her sex life, invited her out to strip clubs and sent her nude photos. 

Many of these incidents, as well as countless similar ones reported by other women, allegedly occurred during work trips, as some bank examiners travel as many as 100 days per year. The party culture that comes with this travel-heavy lifestyle – referred to as the “Wild West” by many employees – is most prominent at the agency’s 11-story hotel outside of Washington, D.C., according to the Journal. There, out-of-town employees often drink on the roof and show up to work hungover the next day. The culture is so well-known that in 2021, an Instagram account posted: “If you haven’t puked off the roof, were you ever really a FIS [bank examiner-in-training]?”

In response to the Journal’s investigation, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said on Monday that the agency has hired a law firm to look into alleged harassment and discrimination. The agency’s inspector general had previously found in 2020 that the FDIC’s policies for tracking misconduct were “decentralized, untimely, incomplete and inaccurate.” An FDIC official also told the paper that it was committed to “fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace.” 

Many of the women told the Journal that they never filed complaints out of fear of hurting their careers. Men – who filled 60 percent of examiner roles and 65 percent of manager roles last year – are often given more opportunities to progress, as they develop personal bonds with their superiors at golf and strip club outings, the women said.

Meanwhile, women said they are constantly barred from assignments to lead bank exams, then criticized in their performance reviews because they have not led any bank exams. And any questioning of this logic brands them as “difficult.” One woman recalled being given a negative review in 2018, then advised by two male managers to “just smile and make [the reviewer] feel good.”

According to the Journal,the agency rarely fired employees accused of sexual harassment, and instead moved them to other offices. Meanwhile, over 20 of the women interviewed have quit their jobs at the FDIC.