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Democrats Batter Bank Regulator Over F.D.I.C.’s ‘Toxic’ Workplace Culture

Martin Gruenberg is still the leader of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, an agency that supervises U.S. banks, but after a bipartisan grilling on Wednesday by members of a House committee overseeing bank regulators, he appeared to be hanging on by a thread.

Democrats expressed dismay over his responses to the crisis at his agency, after a scathing report of a culture of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination. One congresswoman appeared to call for him to resign, as Republicans have been doing for months.

“Personally, I do not have confidence that you can continue to lead in this role,” Representative Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, told Mr. Gruenberg during an exchange. “I am so tired of white men failing up.”

In a bruising session that lasted more than three hours, committee members repeatedly asked Mr. Gruenberg what he planned to do to change his behavior in response to reports that he had berated employees and created an environment in which people were afraid to communicate with him. (Two other federal bank regulators, acting comptroller of the currency, Michael Hsu, and the Federal Reserve vice chair, Michael Barr, also offered testimony on bank regulatory matters, but much of the committee’s focus was on the F.D.I.C.)

“It’s incumbent on me to be more sensitive to how my behavior is received by employees and to understand that the only thing that matters is not my perception but their perception,” Mr. Gruenberg said. At one point, in response to a suggestion by Representative Sylvia Garcia, Democrat of Texas, Mr. Gruenberg said he would take anger management classes.

Mr. Gruenberg is trying to save his tenure at the agency, which he has run for 10 of the last 13 years, partly to help see through a rule that the F.D.I.C. is proposing, along with other federal bank regulators, to tighten and expand oversight of the nation’s largest lenders. Big banks have fiercely opposed it, and if Mr. Gruenberg steps down, the rule is unlikely to have the necessary votes from F.D.I.C. board members to be finalized.

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