Federal housing agency employee secretly recorded director's sexual advances toward her: report

Federal housing agency employee secretly recorded director's sexual advances toward her: report
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An employee of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) secretly recorded director Melvin Watt making sexual advances toward her, according to NPR News.

Simone Grimes has accused Watt of sexual harassment, retaliation and pay discrimination, claiming he leveraged his ability to advance her career as he discussed his attraction to her.

"I'm guilty of having an attraction to you, that is true," Watt said on the tape obtained by NPR. "So it makes me more conscious not to leave some impression."


Grimes this week filed a lawsuit against FHFA, alleging it violated the Equal Pay Act as she worked two jobs simultaneously for less money than her male coworkers. She also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May, NPR reported.

The FHFA oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. 

"The selective leaks related to this matter are obviously intended to embarrass or to lead to an unfounded or political conclusion," Watt said in a statement released to The Hill by FHFA that echoes a previous statement released in July.

"However, I am confident that the investigation currently in progress will confirm that I have not done anything contrary to law," he continued. "I will have no further comment while the investigation is in progress." 

Grimes told NPR that Watts began coming on to her when she needed his signature for a pay raise in 2015.

"That's kind of when Director Watt began his advances," she told NPR. "So he approached me at a few functions that were at work to say he believed there was an attraction between us that needed to be explored."

Grimes said she was being paid 70 cents per dollar compared to her predecessor.

She said she began recording her conversations with Watt in 2016, and that in November 2016 he insisted she meet him at his house, where she secretly used her cellphone to record a conversation with him.

During the meeting, Watt told her he could advance her career.

"Is it better to go through a charade process to get you the job, or is it better for me to just give you the job, because I don't have to go through a bid process, I don't have to go through an application process," Watt is recorded saying, according to NPR.

"My comment to him is, 'Those sound fine, I believe I'm qualified, but I want to make sure there's no strings attached, you're not expecting anything in return,'" Grimes told NPR.

"I can certainly draw the line, knowing that this end, what I've talked to you about up to this point, has nothing to do with either your beauty or my feelings," he said on the tape, NPR reported.

Grimes told NPR she fears retaliation for her complaints, but intends to move forward with them.

"I have continued to endure this position and try to see it through to the end and be clear with the agency that they are not knocking the wind out of me, I am not losing my stride," Grimes said. "I will continue with this, because I work there, and I know I'm not the only person."

Watt, whose 5-year term ends in January, in July acknowledged the sexual harassment investigation but said he is confident he will be exonerated.

--Updated at 11:11 a.m.