The Drumbeat of Misconduct Gets Louder Across All Industries

The big hits just keep coming. It has been a busy period for reporters and lawyers as the repercussions of indiscretion, inappropriateness, and illegality continue to surface across an increasingly diverse group of businesses.

Point72’s checkered record on gender discrimination and harassment is under the spotlight again after two more claims were filed by employees of the hedge fund group in April and June – Sara Vavra was Head of Global Macro and Shannon Gitlin worked in the Investor Relations team. These claims follow the high profile lawsuit filed by Lauren Bonner back in 2018.

At McDonald’s, there were more revelations about Steve Easterbrook, the ex-CEO who was let go in late 2019 for having a relationship with a colleague. The fast-food giant is now suing him in an attempt to recoup his severance payments after discovering additional breaches of corporate policy that were not originally disclosed by Easterbrook.

The media industry is having to report on its peers after scandals and allegations at corporates like Hearst Magazines (sexism), The Ellen DeGeneres Show (toxic culture), and NBCUniversal where Ron Meyer, the long time Executive Vice Chairman, left the film studio colossus for “acting in a manner…not consistent with our company policies or values.” Meyer had reached a settlement with an individual without informing anyone at NBCUniversal, potentially exposing his employer to liability.

In tech, Francoise Brougher, the ex COO of Pinterest, filed a lawsuit this month for gender discrimination after alleging she was fired for speaking up about the same issue. “Gender discrimination at the C-level suite might be a little more subtle, but it’s very insidious and real,” said Brougher as she described the culture at the big tech social network.

To round things off, let’s revert to some more traditional instances of financial misconduct. Daniel Kamensky, the founder of Marble Ridge Capital, made the classic error of committing his intentions to various communications channels and revealed his hand in the process. Kamensky sent a text saying, “DO NOT SEND IN A BID” when he found out that Jefferies was going to bid against his hedge fund for the online retailer, MyTheresa. He had planned to use his position on the credit committee of the retailer’s parent, Neiman Marcus, to sink any rival bid. As Kamensky realized the errors of his way (market abuse; conflict of interest), he then told a banker at Jefferies on a call, “maybe I should go to jail” enough to give any sound compliance officer an immediate heart attack. Marble Ridge Capital is currently in the process of being wound down. An inability to spot true positives like these can often prove fatal.

Most of the cases highlighted above revolve around posthumous remediation that is extremely expensive to brands, stakeholders, and careers The damage has already been done. Companies working to ensure an acceptable workplace are now looking to create the right culture from the outset and also identify anomalous behavior at an earlier stage using technology that is consistent, unbiased, and comprehensive. If it’s unacceptable to be racist in a cafe, why should the same comment be tolerated in an email, Bloomberg chat, or a Slack message? Unless there is no one looking…