I worked with the amazing journalists at Type Investigations, The Intercept and Retro Report to tell the story of the women who fought back after being harassed on Wall Street in the 1990s. Watch the segment from tonight’s PBS Retro Report here.
Women filed a wave of lawsuits and arbitrations against financial firms in the 1990s and early 2000s, disgusted by a culture of rampant sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The biggest cases of that era collectively drew thousands of participants in class actions and led to large settlements including $150 million against Smith Barney and $250 million against Merrill Lynch.
At a time when the long-term consequences of #MeToo on women’s careers is an open questions, I looked at court records, tracked down plaintiffs and spoke with a dozen employment lawyers to see how things had turned out for the women — and how things had turned out for the men who allegedly harassed them. My findings were sobering. You can read my story today for The Intercept here.
Patrick Byrne, CEO of the online retailer Overstock, resigned today. The story behind it is too bizarre and convoluted to rehash, but this New York Times’ version will give you a good overview of recent events. Over the years,Byrne and his social media sidekick Judd Bagley staged vicious attacks on the reporters who didn’t buy their conspiracy theories. They were effective enough that a star of financial journalism once told me it wasn’t worth writing about Byrne because of all the grief he put reporters through.
The amazing thing is that a guy like Byrne would last so long running a public company while ranting about “Sith Lords,” nefarious short sellers and shifty operators in the Deep State. Check out this story that I wrote about the company 12 years ago. (And yes, this set me up as a Byrne/Bagley target). Continue reading
A woman who is sexually harassed at work is six and a half times more likely to change jobs than a woman who is not. So you might think that, a year and a half into the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment would be a front-burner issue for the people paid to diversity Wall Street.
Yet at a two-day conference of diversity experts in the securities industry in New York in late May, not one of the seven panels addressed the challenge of sexual harassment in the workplace. I wrote about it in my latest piece for The Intercept. You can read it here.
The push continues to allow public companies to ban shareholders from suing for fraud. You can read my story for The Intercept here.
I was honored to hear today that The Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, known as Sabew, awarded me an honorable mention in its “Best in Business” competition in the investigative reporting category. My story, “Finra’s Black Hole,” looked at 30 years of brokerage industry arbitration records to see how women fared when they filed complaints about sexual harassment and gender discrimination. (Answer: Not very well). You can read my story here.
Federal regulators are letting brokers get off easy when it comes to serving clients’ best interest. So individual states are stepping in to counter the lax federal regulation. I wrote about it today in a story for The Intercept.
Securities attorney Bill Singer today on sexual harassment on Wall Street.
#MeToo is getting expensive for the insurance companies who issue policies to errant companies. I wrote about it today in this piece for The Intercept.
I looked into the internal investigations that companies do when employees complain about sexual harassment and other workplace inequities. You can read the piece in The New York Times here.
Seven days after the Nov. 1 walkout of 20,000 Google workers outraged over a NY Times investigation of the company’s lenient treatment of sexual harassers, Google said it would make arbitration optional for sexual harassment claims. I wrote about it today for The Intercept. You can read my story here.
ON THE CAMPAIGN trail, Donald Trump frequently pledged to “dismantle” the Dodd-Frank financial reforms passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. On Wednesday, with the Federal Reserve’s release of a proposal to roll back capital and liquidity requirements, he caught his big whale. You can read my story for The Intercept here.
I was on Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan today, talking about my investigation of 30 years of of sexual harassment complaints by women on Wall Street. You can listen to the interview here.
My op-ed, published today in The New York Times, talks about the increasing vulnerability of small investors 10 years after the financial crisis. You can read it here.
Earlier this month, Securities and Exchange Commissioner Hester Peirce told Politico that she “absolutely” thinks that public companies should have the option to require arbitration, which would strip shareholders of their right to bring lawsuits like the one Kacouris filed. The comments by Peirce, a Donald Trump nominee who took office in January, amplified previous remarks by other SEC officials. Commissioner Michael Piwowar, for example, who departed his post in July, told an audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation last year that he would “encourage” companies to come talk to the SEC about putting mandatory arbitration clauses in their charters.
Read more about this in my story today in The Intercept.
For victims of sexual harassment on Wall Street, the case of Kathleen Mary O’Brien was a bad omen.
In 1988, O’Brien, then a stockbroker at Dean Witter Reynolds, filed the earliest sexual harassment case we could find in a public database maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Wall Street’s self-governing organization, which is overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The year before, O’Brien had sued Dean Witter in Los Angeles Superior Court, but the brokerage firm successfully argued that she was legally bound to use Wall Street’s closed-door arbitration forum, then run by a FINRA predecessor, the National Association of Securities Dealers. The arbitrators’ decision in her case would turn out to be a common one in harassment cases over the following years: The claim was dismissed. The panel, offering no explanation as to how it came to the decision, charged her $3,000 in arbitration fees.
O’Brien’s case is one of 98 sexual harassment or hostile work environment claims and counterclaims made by women that The Intercept and the Investigative Fund found in the FINRA database over the past 30 years. You can read the full story here.
Jay Clayton, Donald Trump’s choice to run the Securities and Exchange Commission, is a man Wall Street itself might have picked to run its most important federal regulator. Except for two years clerking for a federal judge after graduating law school, he has worked his entire adult life at Sullivan & Cromwell, an elite law firm based in downtown Manhattan that includes many of the country’s largest publicly traded companies as clients.
Enforcement cases and fines have gone down since Clayton was sworn in last May, and the SEC has given Wall Street and corporate America any number of gifts, including the easing of public company disclosure requirements that some experts consider key for investors looking to understand a company. My colleague Gary Rivlin and I wrote about Clayton’s SEC for The Intercept. You can read our story here.