Posts Tagged ‘sexual harassment’

Fidelity Rethinks Star Stock-Picker System

February 26, 2018

Mutual-fund giant weighs shift to a team-based investing approach and changes to compensation system following complaints

If Fidelity adopts changes to its stock-picking system and compensation, it could mark the end of an era at the company. Shown, a Fidelity Investments branch in New York City on Jan. 4.
If Fidelity adopts changes to its stock-picking system and compensation, it could mark the end of an era at the company. Shown, a Fidelity Investments branch in New York City on Jan. 4. PHOTO: MICHAEL BUCHER/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Fidelity Investments, the mutual-fund giant synonymous with the star stock picker, is now considering abandoning the investment process that made its managers famous, according to people familiar with the situation.

The changes under consideration at privately held Fidelity are the result of an outside consultant’s review since late last year of behavior within the stock-picking unit, and follow reports by The Wall Street Journal of claims of sexual harassment and other misconduct there.

If enacted, the changes would mark a major overhaul of Fidelity’s lucrative stock-picking business, which executives have been loath to disrupt. They could mark the end of an era that created stars such as Peter Lynch and William Danoff, who helped the firm’s assets under management swell to $2.4 trillion and make the Johnson family that founded Fidelity billionaires.

In recent weeks, Fidelity’s senior management, including Chief Executive Abigail Johnson, has held internal discussions about changes aimed at rehabilitating the culture of its high-profile stock unit in Boston, according to people familiar with the meetings. The changes under consideration include scrapping Fidelity’s longtime approach of using junior analysts to support a lead fund manager.

Ms. Johnson, the granddaughter of Fidelity’s founder, also has led meetings on ways to improve the treatment of women in the asset-management business.

Abigail Johnson, chairman and CEO at Fidelity Investments, spoke during a presentation at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association annual meeting in Washington on Oct. 24.
Abigail Johnson, chairman and CEO at Fidelity Investments, spoke during a presentation at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association annual meeting in Washington on Oct. 24. PHOTO: ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG NEWS

A Fidelity spokesman, Vincent Loporchio, said the firm has formed “advisory teams” comprising senior executives and staff members from its asset-management business. “The fact that the advisory teams were established and are meeting is not an indication that any decisions have been or will be made,” he said.

Stock picking has been under unprecedented pressure in recent years as investors have poured money into low-cost index-tracking funds. The star-manager system helped fuel careers of top fund managers at the family-run firm, but it also created a system in which portfolio managers wielded outsize power over analysts, more than a dozen current and former employees said.

Fidelity is now considering a team-based approach used by mutual-fund firms such as rival Wellington Management that gives analysts and senior managers more-comparable footing in choosing securities, the people familiar with the talks said. Fidelity may also do away with a controversial compensation system.

The possible changes are part of a reckoning under way inside the equity division, which for years dealt quietly with accusations of sexual harassment and other misconduct.

In October, the Journal reported that Fidelity fired one of its most prominent fund managers, Gavin Baker, for allegedly sexually harassing a junior female employee, according to the woman’s lawyer and people familiar with the matter. A spokesman for Mr. Baker said he “strenuously” denied any “supposed” allegations of sexual harassment. Fidelity also has forced out several other portfolio managers following complaints of sexual harassment and other abusive behavior.

Fidelity’s Mr. Loporchio said, “We have a strong culture, built on integrity, respect and always doing what is in the best interest of our associates and clients, and the actions of a few, which we do not condone, are by no means representative of who we are as a firm.”


The former and current Fidelity employees said two main issues have contributed to incidents of bad behavior inside the money-management unit. One is the existing compensation system, in which managers vote on analysts’ performance, which in turn affects those individuals’ pay. That system at times has played out like a popularity contest, where junior analysts have felt pressure to curry favor with managers and have feared a backlash for disagreeing with their investment ideas, the current and former employees said. The power imbalance also helped pave the way for workplace misconduct, they said.

In 2005, Jonathan Zang, an analyst in the stock unit, said in an email to Ms. Johnson and other Fidelity executives that the compensation system had an adverse effect on relationships between fund managers and analysts and ultimately hurt fund performance.

Fidelity has said it later terminated the analyst for poor performance, according to court filings in a civil lawsuit Mr. Zang brought against the company​that the parties settled. Mr. Zang said in the suit he was fired in retaliation for voicing concerns about certain fund disclosures.

Current and former employees also cited the unit’s male-dominated leadership under Brian Hogan, who led equity and high-income investing and was part of a group of executives known internally as “the old boy’s club.”

Although there were some female leaders in the unit, the tight-knit executive group at the top of the unit made it hard for employees of both genders to complain about alleged misconduct, and some complaints weren’t addressed, the current and former employees said.

In January, Fidelity said Mr. Hogan would leave that position for a post managing innovation at the personal-investing unit.

“As a leader, Brian’s door is always open and he has always encouraged and welcomed feedback—no questions asked. To suggest otherwise is simply false,” the Fidelity spokesman said on Mr. Hogan’s behalf.

Several instances of alleged misconduct identified by the Journal haven’t been previously reported.

Harry Lange, manager of Fidelity’s well-known Magellan Fund from 2005 to 2011, was known for making inappropriate comments to colleagues, several former employees said. At one point, an executive warned him about keeping pornography in the office, a person familiar with the matter said.

During a work trip to Japan with co-workers late in his tenure, a routine airport check revealed sex toys in Mr. Lange’s suitcase, according to several people familiar with the incident. In response, Fidelity executives launched an internal investigation into his behavior at the firm, these people said.

Mr. Lange was forced to leave the fund later that year, in part because of its poor performance, the Journal reported at the time. Mr. Lange went on to become part-owner of Hedonism II, a clothing-optional resort in Jamaica, according to a 2013 press release. Mr. Lange didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In 2014, Ms. Johnson and other senior executives learned that police in Boston had contacted Fidelity about an analyst who had been arrested a block from the firm’s headquarters near the city’s South Station, where he met an undercover officer disguised as a prostitute, according to a police report and people familiar with the incident.

Police said the analyst, Miles Betro, 36 years old, had been having sexually graphic conversations online, including one with an officer posing as two 14-year-old girls. Police asked Fidelity for access to his computer, since “most of the communicating was being done while he was at work,” according to the police report.

Mr. Loporchio, the Fidelity spokesman, said no company computers had been used.

Mr. Betro was terminated after the incident, according to a person familiar with the matter. A lawyer for Mr. Betro said he wasn’t fired and couldn’t recall the terms of the separation agreement.

Court documents indicate that two counts against Mr. Betro were dismissed and he was given two years of probation for a third count—”sexual conduct for a fee”—before it also was dismissed.

The incident led Fidelity executives to hold a mandatory training session at the firm that ran through a laundry list of activities Fidelity deemed improper, including the inappropriate touching of outside analysts, gambling using work email and using company smartphones to hire prostitutes, people familiar with the training session said.

In 2015, Fidelity fired Fershid Aspi, a director in the Boston unit, after he aggressively pursued an unwanted relationship with a junior analyst in another company office, people familiar with the incident said. The analyst showed Fidelity’s human-resources department an inappropriate email from Mr. Aspi, according to the people familiar with the incident.

A lawyer for Mr. Aspi said the Journal’s “characterization of events is not accurate” and didn’t return calls asking her to elaborate.

“Virtually any company of any size, including The Wall Street Journal, is going to have employees who make poor personal decisions from time to time,” Fidelity’s spokesman said. “Fidelity has a great work environment, where tens of thousands of people have built long, successful careers.”

Write to Sarah Krouse at and Kirsten Grind at


Scandal-hit Australian deputy PM resigns

February 23, 2018


© William West / AFP | Australia’s deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce addresses a press conference in Sydney on July 5, 2016.


Latest update : 2018-02-23

Australia’s scandal-hit deputy leader Barnaby Joyce announced Friday he was quitting and moving to the backbench amid claims of sexual harassment and controversy over an affair with a now-pregnant former aide.

Joyce, whose National Party rules alongside Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull‘s Liberals, has been front-page news in Australia for two weeks since it emerged he had left his wife of 24 years for his younger former media adviser, who is now expecting their baby boy.

The 50-year-old had insisted he would ride out the storm but his position became untenable on Friday when a sexual harassment complaint against him, which he denies, was lodged with the party.

“I will say on Monday morning at the party room (meeting), I will step down as the leader of the National Party and deputy leader of Australia,” Joyce said at a press conference in Armidale, his country New South Wales electorate.

“It’s incredibly important that there be a circuit-breaker, not just for the parliament, but more importantly, a circuit-breaker for Vikki (his lover), for my unborn child, my daughters and for Nat (his wife).

“This has got to stop. It’s not fair on them. It’s just completely and utterly unwarranted, the sort of observation that’s happened.”

Joyce was due to be the acting prime minister this week with Turnbull meeting US President Donald Trump in Washington, but opted to take leave.

With Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also out of the country, the role has been assumed by Senate leader Mathias Cormann, who said ahead of Joyce’s decision that any harassment claim must be taken seriously.

“Any allegation of sexual harassment is a very serious allegation,” he told reporters.

“I understand that a formal complaint has been made, and that that complaint is being investigated. I mean, at this point, that is really all that I have to say about it.”

Joyce called the allegation “spurious and defamatory” and said he wanted it investigated by the authorities.

“I have asked that that be referred to the police,” he said, while admitting it had been “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

“It’s quite evident that you can’t go to the despatch box with issues like that surrounding you.”

Riveted Australia

His decision to quit came with colleagues reportedly growing increasingly frustrated with his handling of the love-child scandal.

Joyce had opted to give several media interviews this week, at a time when he was expected to be on leave and out of the spotlight and two of the party’s backbenchers had publicly called on him to resign.

A furious Turnbull, who relies on the smaller National Party to govern, slapped a formal ban on sex between cabinet members and their staff in the wake of the Joyce affair.

He twice declined to offer support for his deputy when asked by reporters in Washington on Thursday.

Junior Nationals minister David Gillespie has indicated he would be a candidate for the vacancy, while reports said Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack had significant backing.

The new Nationals leader will automatically become deputy prime minister, under a coalition agreement between the two major parties of the centre-right.

The daily media headlines on the scandal have riveted the Australian public and sparked debate about workplace culture amid the global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

But it has also highlighted the perilous state of the coalition government, which just a few months ago survived a crisis over lawmakers’ dual citizenship that threatened its wafer-thin parliamentary majority.


Dems: Bill Clinton too toxic to campaign in midterms

February 14, 2018

One of the party’s top surrogates has been effectively sidelined by the #metoo movement.

Bill Clinton is pictured. | AP Photo
And in this political environment, Bill Clinton campaigning anywhere would amount to him campaigning everywhere, forcing Democrats around the country to answer for what they think of colleagues appearing with him. | Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

Democrats are looking to embrace the #MeToo moment and rally women to push back on President Donald Trump in the midterms—and they don’t want Bill Clinton anywhere near it.

In a year when the party is deploying all their other big guns and trying to appeal to precisely the kind of voters Clinton has consistently won over, an array of Democrats told POLITICO they’re keeping him on the bench. They don’t want to be seen anywhere near a man with a history of harassment allegations, as guilty as their party loyalty to him makes them feel about it.

“I think it’s pretty tough,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus and one of the leading voices in Congress demanding changes in Washington’s approach to sexual harassment. His presence “just brings up a lot of issues that will be very tough for Democrats. And I think we all have to be clear about what the #MeToo movement was.”

After booting Sen. Al Franken precisely because they wanted to draw a clear contrast with Trump, Democrats across the party’s ideological and geographical spectrum acknowledged the political trouble that any appearance with Clinton would cause.

“I value the assets of what the Clintons can bring. He did a lot for Georgia when he was president,” added Georgia Democratic Chair DuBose Porter, treading delicately. “He carried Georgia. The personal side that is now being highlighted, we’ll have to measure.”

Privately, many Democratic politicians and strategists are harsher and firmer: Don’t come to their states, and don’t say anything about their campaigns. They are still worried about saying it out loud, but they don’t want him now, or maybe ever. They know Republicans would react by calling them — with good reason — hypocrites.

And in this political environment, Clinton campaigning anywhere would amount to him campaigning everywhere, forcing Democrats around the country to answer what they think of colleagues appearing with him, and whether they would do so themselves.

It’s a huge change from eight years ago, when Clinton made over 100 appearances for Democrats during the 2010 midterms as the most in-demand presence on the campaign trail. In his reelection campaign two years later, former President Barack Obama anointed Clinton his “explainer-in-chief.”

Clinton’s likely absence on the stump this year comes amid major demand for high-profile surrogates this year — from Obama, who’s expected make select appearances, to Joe Biden and the full crop of 2020 prospects, who are likely to be all over the place in the thick of election season. Even Hillary Clinton will do some targeted campaigning.

All this reluctance about him would be a surprise to Clinton himself, who, according to a person familiar with his plans, has already received a number of preliminary requests from campaigns for advice and events. He’s had a few conversations with candidates, but hasn’t initiated the calls, the person said. Clinton, the source said, is for now focused on his foundation work that included a tour last week of hurricane damage in the Virgin Islands and Dominica, and getting ready for the spring rollout of a mystery novel he wrote with James Patterson.

Anyway, Clinton wouldn’t even start to evaluate political stops until much closer to the election, the person said.

“President Clinton has been diligently working on his book. He’s also been focused on the work of his foundation,” the Clinton source said. “So beyond a few requests for support and advice from a few candidates, he hasn’t spent much time on the midterms.”

“People call me all the time [to ask] if I can talk to him, put [their] requests in,” said James Carville, the former Clinton strategist who remains close with him.

Carville said he believes the former president will do some campaigning, but given Clinton’s age — 71 — and other factors, “it can’t be like it used to.”

But “there are people who want him, I promise you,” Carville said.

Several Democratic campaigns have already polled Clinton’s popularity in their races, weighing whether to take the risk of inviting him out. Others say they’d love to see him chip in, so long as he sticks to New York, at closed-door fundraisers for them where no photographs of them together are taken.

“People are crass about it and will look to see where his numbers are,” admitted one Democratic member of Congress who is in a tough race and is anxious about going public embracing or trashing Clinton. “He’s still Bill Clinton, and he’s still a draw to certain segments of the party.”

“Depending on the audience, there will definitely be people … [who] will be uncomfortable,” said Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.). But there will also “definitely be people who want to see him.”

A Gallup poll in December had Clinton’s national approval rating at 45 percent, down 5 points since the end of the 2016 campaign, and a 52 percent disapproval. Those were his lowest numbers recorded by Gallup since he left office in 2001.

A variety of congressional Democrats were visibly uncomfortable about discussing Clinton. When approached, some of them asked nervously whether he was actually considering campaigning in the midterms.

Democratic operatives ducked the question, while several close allies of Clinton declined interview requests on the topic.

In an interview earlier this year on the party’s strategy for the midterms, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez — who has not been in touch with Clinton the way he has with Obama and other top Democrats — took a diplomatic approach.

“Bill Clinton’s a former president of the United States, and in his administration, we took an economy that was in the tank and built an economic engine that had been unparalleled. Did he make significant mistakes? Of course he did,” Perez said. “People will make judgments race by race about who are the best surrogates to come down and advocate.”

Casino Mogul Steve Wynn Steps Down as RNC Finance Chairman

January 28, 2018

Republicans move quickly as Democrats attack opponents who received Wynn cash

WASHINGTON—Casino mogul Steve Wynn is stepping down from his post as Republican National Committee finance chairman following a Wall Street Journal report alleging a decadeslong pattern of sexual misconduct by him.

“Effective today I am resigning as finance chairman of the RNC,” Mr. Wynn said in a statement Saturday.



BBC News

Steve Wynn: US casino mogul quits as Republican finance chair

Mr Wynn, who is also a Republican official, attends an event at the White House
Steve Wynn is a major figure in the casino world. Getty Images

US casino mogul Steve Wynn has resigned as finance chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) amid sexual harassment allegations.

A Wall Street Journal report on Friday alleged that the 76-year-old billionaire harassed massage therapists and forced one staff member to have sex with him.

Mr Wynn has denied wrongdoing, calling the stories “preposterous”.

RNC chair Ronna McDaniel told US media she had accepted his resignation.

Mr Wynn has blamed his ex-wife, whom he is fighting in court, for the “slander”.

“The instigation of these accusations is the continued work of my ex-wife Elaine Wynn, with whom I am involved in a terrible and nasty lawsuit,” the billionaire said in a statement that his public relations team sent to the BBC on Friday.

What he is accused of

According to the Wall Street Journal, which said it had interviewed dozens of people who worked with Mr Wynn, he is accused of engaging in a pattern of abuse in which he often harassed massage therapists while alone in his private office.

The gambling industry giant paid $7.5m (£5.2m) to one manicurist who alleged she had been forced into sex by Mr Wynn, the paper claims citing court documents.

Female employees would fake appointments in order to avoid seeing him, or enlist others to pretend to be their assistants in order to avoid being alone with him.

Some would even hide in bathrooms or closets if they heard he was coming to their salon, the paper claimed.

Democrats attack Republican ‘silence’

Mr Wynn is also a Republican Party donor and fundraiser.

After harassment allegations were made against Hollywood executive producer Harvey Weinstein last year, Ms McDaniel and other leading Republicans called for the Democratic Party to return his donations.

Now some Democrats are asking if the same rules should apply regarding allegations against Mr Wynn.

The Democratic National Committee has attacked the RNC for remaining silent.

In an October statement, Ms McDaniel wrote: “If Democrats and the DNC truly stand up for women like they say they do, then returning this dirty money should be a no brainer.”

Presentational grey line
Steve Wynn and second wife, Andrea Hissom, at President Trump's inauguration, January 2017
Steve Wynn and second wife, Andrea Hissom, at President Trump’s inauguration. Getty Images

Who is Steve Wynn?

  • The son of an East Coast bingo parlour operator, he is now worth an estimated $3.5bn, according to Forbes magazine
  • He made his fortune in construction and operation of major Las Vegas casinos, including the Golden Nugget, The Mirage, Treasure Island and the Bellagio, all of which he later sold to MGM Grand Inc
  • He has been locked in legal battles with his ex-wife, Elaine Wynn, for more than seven years. The pair co-founded Wynn Resorts
  • He famously accidentally elbowed a hole in the middle of his Picasso painting when preparing to sell it for a record $139m (£74m) in 2016

Casino mogul Steve Wynn denies sexual harassment report — As the value of his company is going down — GOP fundraiser and Trump supporter — Massachusetts Gaming Commission is now opening an investigation into Wynn Boston Harbor

January 27, 2018

University of Iowa vision center named for him after $25M gift


(File photo) The audience applauds Steven Dezii (left) and Steve Wynn at a commemoration ceremony for the naming of the University of Iowa Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research and the Steven W. Dezii Translational Vision Research Facility on Oct. 18, 2013, in Iowa City. Wynn donated $25 million to the university for the research building with a mission of preventing and curing blindness. Dezii is Wynn’s longtime business partner and director of his charitable organization. (Gazette photo)

(File photo) The audience applauds Steven Dezii (left) and Steve Wynn at a commemoration ceremony for the naming of the University of Iowa Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research and the Steven W. Dezii Translational Vision Research Facility on Oct. 18, 2013, in Iowa City. Wynn donated $25 million to the university for the research building with a mission of preventing and curing blindness. Dezii is Wynn’s longtime business partner and director of his charitable organization. (Gazette photo)

Billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn strongly denied a report Friday in the Wall Street Journal that he had sexually harassed and assaulted women for years.

“The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous,” Wynn said in a statement to Reuters.

Wynn Resorts shares were down about 8.5 percent to $183.56 in afternoon trading after the article appeared.

The Journal reported that one case led to a $7.5 million settlement with a manicurist.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Wynn blamed his former wife for orchestrating a smear campaign against him, However, according to the AP, the Journal sought out more than 150 people who had worked for Wynn in researching the story.

While Wynn is most famous for helping rebuild the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s and serving as finance chair of the Republican National Committee, he was received with acclaim in 2013 after making a $25 million contribution to the University of Iowa.

The university established the UI Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research after the businessman made the gift commitment toward the mission of preventing and curing blindness.

Wynn lost his vision from a rare inherited eye disease and thus became familiar with the university’s work and expertise in vision research.

Edwin Stone, who directs the institute, said Wynn’s gift — which was the sixth largest in UI history at the time — has “allowed us to increase our efforts on gene therapy and stem cells grown from a patient’s skin cells,” among other things.

What is today known as the UI Wynn Institute for Vision Research began in the 1980s as an eye-disease lab, and became known as the Center for Macular Degeneration in the 1990s. In 2006, a $10 million gift from the Carver family changed its name to the Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration, and that combined with the UI’s center for glaucoma research to become the Institute for Vision Research.

“Wynn’s gift allowed that to happen,” Stone has told The Gazette.

UI officials, in response to a question from The Gazette, on Friday said, “Right now, we only know what we’re reading and are following this news closely. We certainly do not condone sexual misconduct of any kind.”


Image result for wynn boston harbor

Wynn Boston Harbor (Artist’s impression)

Steve Wynn accused of sexual harassment: What it means for Wynn Boston Harbor, Everett casino

Wynn Resorts is denying multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault by founder Steve Wynn, detailed in a Wall Street Journal report that sent shares of the casino company tumbling 9 percent Friday.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is now opening an investigation into the $2 billion Wynn Resort project underway in Everett.

“The Commission is now aware of and is taking very seriously the troubling allegations detailed in the Wall Street Journal article. The suitability and integrity of our gaming licensees is of the utmost importance, and ensuring that suitability is an active and ongoing process. Consequently, the MGC’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau will conduct a regulatory review of this matter to determine the appropriate next steps,” the MGC said in a statement.

“The governor is deeply disturbed by these allegations and expects them to be taken seriously. This administration has a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment and expects the Commonwealth’s employers to create a safe work environment for all employees where reporting harassment of any kind is encouraged and properly addressed,” Gov. Charlie Baker spokesman Brendan Moss said in a statement.

A spokesman for Wynn said they have been in contact with the MGC and “will be fully cooperative with any review the commission chooses to undertake.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that a number of women say they were harassed or assaulted by the casino mogul and finance chair of the Republican National Committee.

One case led to a $7.5 million settlement with a manicurist. The detailed report relies on interviews with dozens of people whom corroborate a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct with female employees.

The company says it is committed to operating with the “highest ethical standards and maintaining a safe and respectful culture.” In a printed statement sent to The Associated Press, the company said the allegations are part of a smear campaign related to divorce proceedings from Wynn’s ex-wife.

Wynn denied the allegations personally.

Wynn, who is chairman and CEO of the company he founded, is a titan in Las Vegas and played a major role in the revitalization of the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s. It was Wynn’s company that built the Golden Nugget, The Bellagio and Mirage Resorts in the heart of the town.

In a lengthy statement, Wynn and his company both attribute the allegations to a campaign lead by Wynn’s ex-wife, Elaine Wynn.

“The conduct of Elaine during the course of the pending lawsuits has been shocking and deeply disturbing to me personally and as the CEO of Wynn Resorts,” Wynn said.

In its reporting, The Wall Street Journal stated that none of the alleged victims reached out to the publication. Instead, the newspaper said it sought out more than 150 people who had worked for Wynn, many of whom did not want to go on record for fear of losing their jobs.

The newspaper reported that Wynn’s actions were well known enough that employees would sometimes enter fake appointments in the books to help other female workers avoid him. In some cases, female employees in the salon would hide in back rooms if they knew Wynn was on his way to the casino.

Wynn Resorts said there has never been a complaint made about Wynn to the company’s independent hotline for anti-harassment.

Friday night, the company’s Board of Directors announced formation of a special committee to investigate the allegations in the Wall Street Journal article.

“The Special Committee will be chaired by Ms. Patricia Mulroy, a member of the Board’s Corporate Governance and Compliance Committees and a former member of the Nevada Gaming Commission. The Board is deeply committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all of the Company’s employees and to operating with the highest ethical standards,” the company said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

UK elite in turmoil over ‘men-only’ charity dinner sexual harassment scandal — Prime Minister said she was “appalled”

January 25, 2018

Britain’s Presidents Club charity has shut down following allegations of sexual harassment at a men-only gala. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the Bank of England were among those forced to clarify their involvement.

Großbritannien London - Dorchester Hotel (picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. Toscano)

Britain’s business and political world was rocked by allegations of sexual harassment on Wednesday, after an investigation by the British Financial Times (FT) newspaper reported that female hostesses were groped and propositioned at a men-only charity gala.

Around 360 businessmen and politicians attended the latest annual dinner and auction organized by the Presidents Club charity fund at London’s luxury Dorchester Hotel. The event also featured more than 100 young female hostesses, who were required to wear short skirts and high heels. Among them were two undercover journalists, who later reported dozens of instances of harassment, lewd comments and “repeated requests to join diners in bedrooms elsewhere in the Dorchester.”

Read more: 100 days of #MeToo

“I was groped several times and I know that there are numerous other hostesses who said the same thing had happened to them,” FT reporter Madison Marriage said. “The worst I was told by one of the hostesses was a man taking his penis out during the course of the dinner,” she added.

Following the publication of the investigative report, the Presidents Club announced it was shutting down and that all remaining funds would be distributed to children’s charities. The trust claimed to have raised some 20 million pounds ($28 million, €23 million) since it was founded in the 1980s.

A number of institutions that had previously received donations from the trust, including London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and London’s Royal Academy of Music, said they would be returning all funds handed to them in recent years.

Political figures scramble to distance themselves from gala

A number of political figures were forced to issue statements distancing themselves from the charity gala, including UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.

Among the auction prizes at the event was a personal lunch with Johnson and tea with Carney.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May said that Johnson “had not agreed to support this event and knew nothing of the inclusion of any lunch.”

The Bank of England released a statement saying that Carney was “deeply dismayed that such an event could take place” and that a tour of the central bank had been donated at a separate event and reauctioned for the Presidents Club’s gala without permission.

A member of May’s cabinet, Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi, came under fire for attending the dinner. May’s spokesman said that he “has himself said that he felt uncomfortable at it, leaving at the point that the hostesses were introduced.”

Zahawi later added on Twitter that he “unequivocally condemns this behavior” and will “never attend a men-only function ever again.”

“I didn’t stay long enough to really comment on the occasion.” – whiffs of a cop out from Children’s Minister Nadhim Zahawri. Why doesn’t he condemn the slimeballs? 

I do unequivocally condemn this behaviour. The report is truly shocking. I will never attend a men only function ever.

The ramifications of the event were felt by some in Westminster, however. Businessman David Meller was forced step down from his position on the board of the Department for Education for his role as a joint trustee of the Presidents Club.

Read more: Opinion: Why 2018 is the year of the woman

His resignation was welcomed by several female politicians on Wednesday. Labour Party lawmaker Jess Phillips, who brought the issue before the House of Commons, said: “What happened is that women were bought as bait for men who were rich men, not a mile from where we stand, as if that is an acceptable behavior. It is totally unacceptable.”

“It is quite extraordinary to me that in the 21st century allegations of this kind are emerging,” junior education minister Anne Milton told the house. “Women have the right to feel safe wherever they work and allegations of this type of behavior are completely unacceptable.”

dm/se (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)


#MeToo Arrives in China — (Standing Committee of the Politburo has never had a female member) — #WoYeShi

January 20, 2018

The Communist Party is nervous

WHEN Luo Xixi was studying for a PhD at Beihang University in Beijing, her supervisor, Chen Xiaowu, asked her to go with him to his sister’s house to look after her plants. Women, she recalled him saying at the time, are innately better at domestic chores. Once in the house, she says, he demanded sex, letting her go only when she pleaded she was a virgin. As she left, he warned her not to tell anyone, claiming he had merely been testing her to see whether she was “a well-mannered student”.

Thirteen years later, in October 2017, Ms Luo was working in Silicon Valley as news spread of a social-media campaign by victims of sexual harassment using the hashtag #MeToo. With a handful of fellow Beihang graduates, she formed a group on WeChat, a messaging app, to discuss the abuse they had suffered. Ms Luo decided to take her case to the university. For three months, the college remained silent while Mr Chen began his own campaign, warning possible accusers not to let themselves become “agents of evil foreign forces”.

On January 1st Ms Luo went public on Weibo, a microblogging site. When Mr Chen denied the claims, Ms Luo published transcripts of him saying things like “Can’t I touch you?” and “Then can you touch me a little?” On January 11th the university ruled that her accusations were true and suspended Mr Chen. Three days later the Ministry of Education stripped him of a prestigious scholarship and demanded he repay the stipend. Thus #MeToo finally arrived in China, claiming its first scalp and establishing a new hashtag with the Chinese characters for “me too”: #WoYeShi.

China’s movement against sexual harassment is very different from those in the West. So far, accusations have all come from universities, not the film business or politics. No celebrities have tweeted #WoYeShi. Almost all the accusations have been made anonymously. Ms Luo’s story stuck out because she used her own name. That was partly, she said, because she lived in America, where she had some protection from the retaliation she might have suffered were she in China.

The movement there faces greater challenges than elsewhere. Tian Dong, a lawyer who specialises in gender-related cases, says there is no legal definition of sexual harassment in China. Chinese companies often ignore harassment in their terms of employment and training. Social attitudes have changed profoundly in the past 30 years, but traditional sexual roles remain entrenched. Women are expected to shut up and look demure. A study by the Guangzhou Gender Centre, an NGO, found that almost 70% of students said they had been harassed. Fewer than 4% said they had, or ever would, report assaults to the police.

Above all, #WoYeShi faces the Communist Party—the most powerful organ of which, the Standing Committee of the Politburo, has never had a female member. Given the party’s ingrained sexism and hostility to any form of activism, the surprising thing is not that #WoYeShi has had less impact than #MeToo. It is how far it has come in a short time. Universities face a wave of accusations. There have been petitions in 68 of them demanding systems for reporting and investigating harassment charges, says Feng Yuan of the Women’s Study Centre at Shantou University.

In 2015 five activists were arrested for trying to campaign against sexual harassment on public transport. Recently, internet censors have been busy deleting #WoYeShi petitions. But the party appears to have changed its tune. In an online commentary, its flagship People’s Daily praised Ms Luo, saying “being brave is the best stance.” By sounding sympathetic, the party may hope that it can forestall demands that could evolve into a broader popular movement.

This article appeared in the China section of the print edition under the headline “#ChinaToo”

Berlusconi lauds Catherine Deneuve’s ‘blessed words’ on #MeToo — “Women are happy if a man tries to seduce them.” — Bunga Bunga

January 12, 2018



Italy’s former prime minister said that “women are happy if a man tries to seduce them.” The 81-year-old was previously put on trial for sleeping with an underage nightclub dancer.

Silvio Berlusconi (Getty Images/M. Luzzani)

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday he welcomed French actress Catherine Deneuve’s recent denunciation of the “#MeToo” campaign against sexual harassment and abuse.

“Catherine Deneuve spoke blessed words,” Berlusconi said in a television interview. “It’s natural that women are happy if a man tries to seduce them.”

Deneuve and 99 other women signed an open letter in French daily Le Monde on Tuesday criticizing the “#MeToo” campaign as “puritanical” and a “witch-hunt” against men that left no room for what they said was acceptable seductive behavior.

“#MeToo” began after multiple sexual harassment and rape allegations emerged against Hollywood media mogul Harvey Weinstein in October. Women around the world used the hashtag to share their personal experiences of harassment and assault.

Read more: Catherine Deneuve’s attack on #MeToo sparks fury

Bunga bunga

“I don’t have much experience with this [seducing a woman] because it’s always women who try to seduce me,” Berlusconi said. “The important thing is that the courtship is elegant.”

The billionaire resigned as prime minister in 2011 following revelations he had hosted “Bunga Bunga” erotic parties with young women and had sex with an underage nightclub dancer known as “Ruby the Heart Stealer.”

A judge cleared Berlusconi in 2014 of any wrongdoing for sleeping with Ruby after ruling it could not be proved the former prime minister knew her age when he slept with her.

Berlusconi is currently on trial over accusations he bribed witnesses in the Ruby case.

Read more: Silvio Berlusconi to face trial for ‘bunga bunga’ bribe?

Berlusconi has been trying to return to political prominence as the leader of the conservative Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party ahead of parliamentary elections in March.

The party is doing well in opinion polls, but a 2013 tax fraud conviction bars Berlusconi from entering office.

Read more: Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi appeals public office ban in Strasbourg

amp/rc (Reuters, AFP)

Oprah Winfrey, a fame-fixated peddler of fake empathy, would be a terrible president

January 9, 2018

The yearning for a charismatic leader rose again last night in America, when Twitter – what else? – cried out for President Winfrey or, as we would surely call her, President Oprah. What else is global first name recognition for?

It was predictable, if crazed. Oprah gave a competent speech when accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes. It reminded me of my favourite Mel Brooks joke, which he wrote for the gun-slinging Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles: “I must have killed more men than Cecil B DeMille”.

But never mind that fantasy of apocalypse now; it might come later, when Oprah goes in against North Korea with her publicist and her sofa. She spoke about poverty, and hope, and the abuse and resilience of women; then Meryl Streep, who until now I thought was a sensible woman, suggested Oprah renew America after the sickness of Donald Trump!

She would be the Democrat Donald Trump…

Read the rest (Paywall):

The FBI’s Trump ‘Insurance’

December 14, 2017

More troubling evidence of election meddling at the bureau.

Democrats and the media are accusing anyone who criticizes special counsel Robert Mueller as Trumpian conspirators trying to undermine his probe. But who needs critics when Mr. Mueller’s team is doing so much to undermine its own credibility?

Wednesday’s revelations—they’re coming almost daily—include the Justice Department’s release of 2016 text messages to and from Peter Strzok, the FBI counterintelligence agent whom Mr. Mueller demoted this summer. The texts, which he exchanged with senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page, contain…


‘We Can’t Take That Risk’ — FBI Officials Discussed ‘Insurance Policy’ Against Trump Presidency


Two FBI officials who worked on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation exchanged text messages last year in which they appear to have discussed ways to prevent Donald Trump from being elected president.

“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok wrote in a cryptic text message to Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer and his mistress.

“It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” Strzok wrote in the text, dated Aug. 15, 2016.

Andy is likely Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

The text message is one of 375 released Tuesday night ahead of a House Judiciary Committee hearing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. (RELATED: Strzok Called Trump An ‘Idiot’ In Text To Fellow Mueller Investigator)

Several congressional panels have sought the text messages since their existence was revealed earlier this month. Strzok, who was a top investigator on both the Trump investigation and the Clinton email probe, was kicked off of Mueller’s team over the summer after the text messages were discovered.

It remains unclear why the existence of the texts was not disclosed until nearly four months after Strzok was removed from the Mueller investigation.

Strzok and Page’s exchanges show a deep disdain for Trump and admiration for Clinton. In a text sent on Oct. 20, 2016, Strzok called the Republican a “f*cking idiot.”

In on Aug. 6 text, Strzok responded to an article shared by Page by replying, “F Trump.”

The pair exchanged another cryptic text message that same day.

“Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace,” Page wrote.

“I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps,” Strzok replied.

Like many of the exchanges, the full context of the message is not entirely clear.

Strzok also offered praise for Clinton while suggesting that he planned to vote for her.

In a March 2, 2016 text Strzok said he would likely vote for Clinton. In another exchange he wrote that if Trump won the Republican primary, Clinton would likely win the presidency.

“God Hillary should win 100,000,000 – 0,” he told Page.

Strzok also congratulated Page after Clinton clinched the Democratic party nomination.

“Congrats on a woman nominated for President in a major party! About damn time!” he wrote in a July 26, 2016 text.

While he was praising Clinton, Strzok was working at the center of the investigation into the Democrat’s use of a private email server. He emailed Clinton on July 2, 2016 — three days before then-FBI Director James Comey cleared her of criminal wrongdoing. (RELATED: FBI Agent Praised Hillary Clinton While Leading Email Investigation)

In the weeks before and after his politically-charged texts, Strzok interviewed several Clinton aides who sent and received classified emails that ended up on Clinton’s email server.

Two of those aides were Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills. Both appear to have provided misleading responses to questions about their awareness of Clinton’s use of a private server. But despite their false statements, neither Abedin nor Mills were charged with lying to the FBI. (RELATED: Clinton Aides Went Unpunished Despite Giving Misleading Statements In FBI Interview)

That’s in contrast with another Strzok interview subject: Retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn.

Strzok interviewed the then-national security adviser at the White House on Jan. 24 regarding Flynn’s conversations during the presidential transition period with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI during that interview.

Strzok was picked to oversee the Russia investigation at the end of July 2016, several weeks after the Clinton probe ended.