Biden names new watchdog at finance agency after embattled IG departs

Biden names new watchdog at finance agency after embattled IG departs
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The Biden administration has named a new watchdog chief for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) following the departure of the agency’s embattled inspector general.

Phyllis Fong, the top watchdog at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 2002, was tapped last week to take over as acting chief of the office formerly led by Laura Wertheimer. Fong will continue to hold her post at USDA.

Wertheimer last month announced she would resign at the end of July, following two investigations that determined she had abused her authority and mistreated staff.

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As acting head of the Office of Inspector General (OIG), Fong will be tasked with overseeing the federal government’s regulation of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Bank System. 

“FHFA OIG has an important mission — to provide oversight and recommendations to enable FHFA to deliver its programs as effectively as possible. I look forward to working with FHFA OIG’s staff to accomplish this mission,” Fong said in a statement Friday.

Before her time as the USDA’s top watchdog, Fong served in the same role at the Small Business Administration. In 2008, Fong was elected as the first chairperson of Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, where she subsequently served three terms. The council conducted one of the two investigations into Wertheimer’s tenure at FHFA.

Acting FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson voiced her support of Fong in a statement last week.

“FHFA takes great pride in being a world-class prudential regulator,” she said in a statement Friday. “Inspector Fong’s leadership in FHFA OIG will provide the oversight required to ensure that FHFA executes our mission in an efficient and effective manner without waste, fraud, or abuse.”

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Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackTom VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE also praised Fong’s track record.

“For nearly two decades, Phyllis has fostered an environment of transparency, accountability, and safety at USDA while serving as Inspector General,” he said in a statement. “Her numerous awards and leadership in this area highlight her commitment to ensuring that federal programs are effective and to preventing fraud, waste, and abuse.”

Raphael Williams, an FHFA spokesperson, said Fong’s appointment was at President BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE's request.

Last month, three advocacy groups sent a letter to Biden urging him to designate a temporary replacement for Wertheimer and prevent her from naming her own successor, particularly since some of her senior colleagues were also accused of abusive behavior in the investigations.

Sens. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation Woman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing MORE (R-Iowa) and Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanOvernight Hillicon Valley — Majority supports national data privacy standards, poll finds Senator calls on agencies to take action to prevent criminal cryptocurrency use Trump praises NH Senate candidate as Sununu weighs own bid MORE (D-N.H.) also wrote to Biden, pressing him to swiftly appoint an acting inspector general not found to have abused their power and nominate a “qualified individual with the leadership expertise to stabilize the FHFA OIG.”