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Florida’s bank regulator discussed sex, harassed women, investigation says

Ronald Rubin’s lawyer, Michael Tein, called the report “completely unfair" and said that firing Rubin was not a “proportionate response” to its findings.
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Published Jul. 18, 2019
Updated Jul. 18, 2019

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s top banking regulator sexually harassed employees and created a hostile work environment in the two-and-a-half months he was on the job, a state inspector general found.

Ronald Rubin, the suspended commissioner of the state’s Office of Financial Regulation, discussed sex with his employees and called one woman the “c-word,” according to a summary of the report released Wednesday.

He asked an employee if their dog watched the employee and their spouse have sex, the report states. He asked another to check out a photograph of a woman who was interested him. And he told a job candidate that his parents would pay him to have a child with someone.

READ THE REPORT: Florida Office of Financial Regulation, Office of Inspector General

The report also confirmed a complaint from a woman who said Rubin told her about his parents’ sex life and offered her a key to his Washington, D.C. apartment. Regardless of Rubin’s intentions, his behavior “had the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile and offensive work environment,” the inspector general wrote.

“He treated female individuals differently through his requests to and/or comments about women,” the report states.

Rubin’s lawyer, Michael Tein, called the report “completely unfair" and said that firing Rubin was not a “proportionate response” to its findings.

“I think the Cabinet is smart enough to see that,” he said.

He added that a lawsuit that Rubin has filed in Miami will vindicate him.

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“We will have an honest hardworking jury and the truth will come out,” Tein said. “Just watch.”

The investigation did not find that Rubin made unwanted sexual advances, asked for sexual favors, or touched anyone inappropriately.

It does describe numerous instances of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior by Rubin, a former Securities and Exchange lawyer who had gone the last four years without a full-time job.

He asked employees to help him move a refrigerator from his home, asked an employee to fix his coffee maker, called an employee a “Debbie Downer,” and told an employee that wearing bowties were associated “with people who are gay, Muslim or like attention,” the report states.

As the state’s top banking regulator, Rubin is responsible for overseeing more than 300 employees who regulate the state’s banks, check-cashing stores and payday loan shops. He’s been on leave since May.

Rubin got the $166,000 job in February with heavy backing from the state’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis.

Why Patronis wanted Rubin over 21 other people who were legally qualified to do the job is at the heart of a rare public dispute.

Patronis’ office said they did extensive background checks on Rubin. But a Bloomberg Law report said he was fired from his last job, as a lawyer on the House Financial Services Committee, over an allegation of sexual harassment.

Patronis’ office has yet to release the records from their background checks.

The scandal has also enveloped Patronis, one of the top four elected politicians in state government.

Rubin has said that Patronis picked him because a lobbyist close to Patronis’ chief of staff was helping Rubin with the job, and Rubin has alleged Patronis pushed him out after he refused to hire the wife of the lobbyist.

Rubin’s predecessor, Drew Breakspear, also said Patronis wielded political influence on the banking office, which is supposed to be separate from politics.

And state police are now reviewing an allegation that Patronis illegally released one woman’s sexual harassment complaint against Rubin for political reasons. The woman’s lawyer said she feels Patronis violated her privacy.

On Wednesday, Patronis again called for Rubin’s firing, but he did not address the criticisms against him.

He said that Rubin is “unfit for office,” and he said that he should be fired at the July 25 Cabinet meeting. As of Wednesday, the issue was not on the agenda for the meeting.