#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.
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.
Everybody loves a half-price sale, and if you’re a recruiter on Wall Street, there’s always a markdown on female employees.
But the revealing lawsuits that used to challenge this outrageous pay gap and economically hostile work environment to women are few and far between today – and that’s how Wall Street wants it. The country’s biggest banks have made it harder than ever for women with complaints of unequal pay or treatment to make their cases in a public forum.
Twenty-three women sued Smith Barney for sexual harassment and pay discrimination in an explosive class-action lawsuit filed 20 years ago this month. It became known as the “boom-boom room” suit, named after a basement party room at Smith Barney’s branch office in Garden City, N.Y. Nearly 2,000 women joined the case, exposing the sordid antics of Wall Street’s testosterone-driven culture.
Smith Barney paid $150 million in arbitration awards and settlements in the case, and it and other Wall Street firms rushed to set up anti-harassment training, employee hotlines and programs to recruit women.
Twenty years later, permanent change is less obvious.
“You may no longer have strippers coming for afternoon entertainment, but that doesn’t mean you are treated as an equal,” said Anne C. Vladeck of the New York employment law firm Vladeck, Raskin & Clark. “It’s not quite as blatant as what went on in the boom-boom room, but it’s still there in a way that makes it very hard for women to succeed. Companies on Wall Street are just not changing.”
You can read the full story I wrote for The New York Times here.
Did you hear the one about the stock promoter, the lawyer, three figurehead CEOs and seven auditing firm partners?
No, it isn’t a “walks into a bar” joke. It’s a case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission last month against the players in a sham stock offering. The agency went after all the people involved in what it called ”a massive scheme to create public shell companies through false registration statements.”
No big deal, right? The SEC is supposed to be going after bad guys, making them pay fines and lose privileges. But it tends to do a lot better in cases against no-name boiler room types like the ones in the January case than it does with players at powerful banks.
In my column for TheStreet this week, I discussed the contrast in enforcement results between cases against small players and cases against Wall Street’s elite.
In December, for example, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or Finra, brought cases against ten household name firms for flouting the rules that govern research analysts when their firms are pitching for initial public offering business. In its complaints against the firms, Finra described the actions of specific people who broke specific rules. But we never learned their names. Indeed they weren’t charged at all. You can read my column here.
Here’s the latest in the long-running battle between Goldman Sachs and the women who sued the firm in 2010 for gender discrimination:
Both sides in recent weeks have filed dozens of briefs and exhibits, mostly focused on the women’s request earlier this year that the court grant them class status so that they can represent 2,300 current and former associates and vice presidents who allegedly were discriminated against in pay and promotion policies. Among issues that have come up: Whether women at so-called “extreme jobs” like the ones at Goldman simply can’t cut it.
Goldman trotted out Michael A. Campion, a Purdue University management professor, to make the case. While Campion testified that he did not have the data to draw a conclusion as to whether women make less because of the demands of an extreme job, he said it is “plausible” and that “it’s a consideration that’s not minor.” I talk about Campion’s theory in my column today for TheStreet Foundation.
On July 3, Goldman, Sachs & Co. submitted a 74-page memorandum of law and declarations of 27 Goldman Sachs witnesses to Judge James C. Francis of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and to three women who are suing the firm for gender discrimination.
The high-profile case of Cristina Chen-Oster et al. v. Goldman, Sachs & Co. et al. has been going on since Chen-Oster and two other former Goldman women sued in 2010. On July 1, the women’s lawyers filed a brief asking the court to certify them as a class. I wrote about the heavily redacted document in this story for TheStreet.
On July 3, Goldman filed its response. But 16 days later, it still is not on the court docket.
As it turns out, Goldman has been at work redacting that document over the past two weeks, and you can’t help but wonder what it is that the firm is so hellbent on keeping from the public. I raised that question in my latest column for TheStreet. You can read it here.
Four years ago, a former Goldman Sachs & Co. executive and two of her former colleagues sued the firm, alleging sex discrimination and asking to be certified as a class.
Today, the women filed documents that added to an extensive dossier of allegations. Among the filings was a request that a judge in the Federal district court in Manhattan allow H. Christina Chen-Oster and her co-plaintiffs to proceed in their suit as a class representing a class of women who work — or worked — at the bank.
I wrote about the latest round of filings for TheStreet Foundation today. You can read my column here, but here are a few highlights:
There are the strip clubs. The guys who organize departmental golf games and don’t invite the women. The liberal use of the word “bimbo” to describe Goldman women, many of whom graduate from the same Ivy League schools the men do. And, of course, the very discouraging numbers about pay and promotion. But the biggest deal about Chen-Oster’s brief filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York court July 1 seeking class action status is the redactions. Because even when women and their lawyers fight bitter battles to get their hands on important documents that expose discrimination, companies always seem to find a way to keep the public from hearing about the worst stuff.
Brokerage firms put an immeasurable amount of energy into making sure the public never sees the real numbers on women, promotions, and compensation. And they get apoplectic at the idea that the public might read allegations like that of former Goldman employee Shanna Orlich, who says she went to a holiday party in 2007 where a male managing director had hired women clad in “short black skirts, strapless tops, and Santa hats” to mingle with the Goldman men.
And yet, somehow, what started as a cluster of professional women at Goldman has mushroomed into a very important case.
Still, there’s much we don’t know. Take a look at the latest filing and scroll through to see the thick black lines that keep you from hearing the whole story.
Goldman Sachs’ most famous opinion writer did what no Goldman employee is supposed to do: He talked, very publicly, about his experience at the firm.
Greg Smith’s March 14 New York Times op-ed “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” generated 3 million page views within 24 hours. The issues he brought up about how business is done at Goldman hit a chord with the public.
Now he’s written a book “Why I Left Goldman Sachs.” I reviewed it for Bloomberg today, and you can read the review here.
I have criticisms of “Why I Left.” Smith walks us through his 12 years at Goldman but doesn’t reflect on the fact that he himself was seduced by the firm and its much hyped culture of integrity and “customer first.”
And he doesn’t look at the current problems of Goldman and its competitors with a sense of history. Fraud, scandals, and conflicts of interest on Wall Street should be addressed, as Smith says, but they are nothing new. “Why I Left,” though, is mostly limited to the dozen years Smith was at the company and the “toxic” culture he observed at the end. I wonder if he understood that Goldman may not have been all it was cracked up to be in the first place.
That said, he’s getting creamed with criticisms I don’t think he deserves. The book was all hype and didn’t disclose anything illegal, goes one argument. Well, the author said “I don’t know of any illegal behavior” in that op-ed seven months ago, so why did his critics expect otherwise? My favorite Greg Smith bash is the argument that goes something like this: “He asked Goldman for a million-dollar bonus that he didn’t deserve.” Are we really supposed to be shocked at the notion of someone on Wall Street wanting to get paid more than they deserve?
Considering Smith’s out of work, maybe Goldman will consider him for its next FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, which gives five-figure payments to authors who sometimes even write about brokerage firms. Talk about a conflict of interest.
Goldman’s counterattack has been over-the-top. The firm shared excerpts from Smith’s self-evaluations with Bloomberg, as well as documents that showed he was denied a raise and a promotion.
Did you know that your bosses could hand out information from your HR files if you tick them off? I’ll bet that looming threat is adding a whole new understanding of the firm’s culture of “collaboration, teamwork and integrity” with the troops at Goldman.
The book could have been better. The issues Smith raised are important even if they are age-old Wall Street problems. And the message from Smith’s former employer is loud and clear: Don’t mess with Goldman Sachs.
Do you remember that 11-hour Senate hearing where there were more scatological references than you could find in a Beavis and Butthead movie? “How much of that sh**ty deal did you sell?” asked Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who was running a hearing of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on investigations. “Should Goldman Sachs be trying to sell the sh**ty deal?
Levin was grilling a Goldman executive about the over-the-top emails Levin’s committee had collected that made very clear that insiders at Goldman — and other firms — were privately trashing the same securities they were selling to their customers. One gem the investigators had come across: A Goldman executive emailing a colleague “Boy that Timberwolf was one sh**ty deal.”
When all was said and done, Levin asked the Justice Department to look into whether Goldman had broken the law by misleading clients. Last Thursday, Justice said it wouldn’t be bringing a case.
In my column for CNN.com today, I raise the question that’s on a lot of people’s minds: Do big banks like Goldman get special treatment? Read article