WASHINGTON — Mel Watt, the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, on Friday decried the disclosure of an investigation of sexual harassment allegations made by an agency employee, and suggested the leak was politically motivated.

Politico reported Friday that an FHFA staffer claimed Watt had made inappropriate sexual advances when she tried to discuss professional concerns.

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

Mel Watt
"The selective leaks related to this matter are obviously intended to embarrass or to lead to an unfounded or political conclusion,” said FHFA Director Mel Watt. Bloomberg News

According to documents obtained by Politico, Watt at one point asked about a tattoo on the employee’s ankle, and said, “If I kissed that one would it lead to more?"

The FHFA staffer filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and her lawyer, Diane Seltzer Torre, confirmed to American Banker that the investigation is ongoing. An investigator working for the U.S. Postal Service is handling the probe, Politico reported. The employee has requested privacy, Torre said.

Former President Obama appointed Watt to lead the FHFA in 2014, and his five-year tenure will end in January.

The paper reported that Watt arranged to meet the staffer — who has been with the agency since 2014 — on two separate occasions outside of the office, where he made the alleged advances, according to transcripts obtained by Politico.

The employee alleges that a promotion was withheld from her because she reported the claims, according to the article. Later, she said Watt asked her why she rejected his advances.

The investigation into Watt’s behavior has been occurring for at least a month, according to documents, Politico reported. Under the Equal Opportunity Act, a federal agency has 180 days to investigate a complaint before a lawsuit can be filed.

Hannah Lang

Hannah Lang is Washington-based reporter who writes about federal mortgage policy and the U.S. housing finance system for American Banker and National Mortgage News.