Caixa boss out following sexual harassment allegations

At least five women have talked to a news outlet to accuse Pedro Guimarães of sexual harassment. Photo: Marcos Corrêa/PR
At least five women have talked to a news outlet to accuse Pedro Guimarães of sexual harassment. Photo: Marcos Corrêa/PR

Pedro Guimarães is out as head of Caixa, Brazil’s biggest public bank. His resignation comes after multiple women came forward accusing him of sexual harassment. Federal prosecutors are looking into allegations of women who denounced inappropriate advances, unwanted physical contact, and offensive and violent statements made by Mr. Guimarães during work hours.

The investigation is sealed, but five women spoke of their experiences with news website Metrópoles, and multiple other reports followed with additional detail. For his behavior, Mr. Guimarães could face criminal charges of sexual misconduct.

In his resignation letter, reported by cable news station GloboNews, the Caixa boss called the accusations “unjust” and “untrue,” and complained about not being able to defend himself. Mr. Guimarães added that he was always guided by “utmost respect and meritocracy” in his actions. He said the allegations will be proven false but that he resigns in order to spare the institution from political grievances.

Mr. Guimarães has been a close underling to President Jair Bolsonaro and a regular feature in the president’s weekly Facebook Live broadcasts. He was until now the only head of a public bank or state-controlled company to have kept his position since Mr. Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.

Caixa has a pivotal role in the government’s functioning, as it is tasked with carrying out federal programs such as Auxílio Brasil, Jair Bolsonaro’s flagship cash-transfer scheme, federal housing programs, and the management of FGTS, a mandatory severance fund for workers. In recent times, the bank was venturing into rural credit programs as well.

One employee at Caixa headquarters spoke to The Brazilian Report under condition of anonymity, describing a culture of fear and intimidation under Mr. Guimarães not limited to sexual harassment. Employees were even told to avoid wearing red, the color of the center-left Workers’ Party, to work.

According to the employee, it was common knowledge that Mr. Guimarães would make sexual advances to female employees. In one case, he allegedly had a sexual encounter in a car provided by the bank.

Mr. Guimarães attended a Caixa event on Wednesday accompanied by his wife and did not directly mention the allegations against him. “I thank my wife in a very clear way. Twenty years together, two children, and a life guided by ethics,” he said.

The complaints come at a time when President Bolsonaro is trying to improve his image with female voters, who make up the majority of the population — but among whom the president is the least appreciated.

The government has reportedly chosen a woman, Daniella Marques, to replace Mr. Guimarães as Caixa’s new president. Ms. Marques is currently Secretary for Productivity and Competitivity in the Economy Ministry, and is described as Economy Minister Paulo Guedes’ right-hand woman. 

The scandal involving Mr. Guimarães adds to the government’s hydra of crises, which includes trying to fend off a push by the opposition to investigate alleged influence-peddling schemes within the Education Ministry in the middle of the presidential election. 

This is not to mention voter dissatisfaction with rising living costs, especially for goods such as fuels and food.