FHFA Employee Invited to Testify Against Agency’s Director

Simone Grimes accuses Mel Watt of making 'unwelcome and unwanted sexual advances'

President Barck Obama announces Melvin Watt as nominee for the FHFA / Getty Images

The House Financial Services Committee has invited a senior employee to testify Thursday about her allegations of sexual harassment against the agency’s director.

Simone Grimes, a senior FHFA employee, may appear before a committee panel, a reversal of a prior decision, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Grimes has accused Mel Watt, the FHFA’s director, of "unwelcome and unwanted sexual advances" that threatened her career. She first made the accusation in June.

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Watt has denied the allegations. The director, who was nominated to the position by former President Barack Obama in May 2013, wrote to investigators that he would not participate in the probe, arguing that presidential appointees are exempt from such investigations.

The Journal reported House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) rejected past efforts by Grimes to testify before the committee.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) wrote to Hensarling to support Grimes’ case and to allow her a fair hearing. Grimes told Politico that she is "100 percent willing" to appear before the panel.

"We must face the reality that women throughout all sectors feel that existing practices and procedures have worked against them and left them silenced when they have complaints about discrimination and harassment," Waters wrote.

Grimes, who has already met with staff from both parties, further indicated through an attorney that she is prepared to fully cooperate with the committee.

"[S]he will address whatever issues the committee asks her to address with respect to her complaints about sexual harassment by director Watt," her lawyer said in a statement.

Watt, a former Democratic congressman from North Carolina, was confirmed as FHFA director in December 2013 and resigned from Congress in January 2104. His term is set to expire in January.

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) had threatened at the time to change procedural rules to avoid a Republican filibuster in seeking Watt’s confirmation. He ultimately did evoke the "nuclear option"–the changing of Senate rules to require 51 votes to confirm a nominee rather than 60–after an initial vote to end a Republican filibuster failed. Reid also ended the filibuster in November 2013 to confirm three Obama selections for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Democrat-led return to a simple majority, which had been longstanding practice prior, has haunted Democrats during the Trump administration. President Donald Trump appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and has filled Circuit Court vacancies at a record pace by abandoning the filibuster.