It’s the biggest #MeToo case on Wall Street, and someone is lying

It’s the biggest #MeToo case on Wall Street, and someone is lying

Sara Tirschwell, a former portfolio manager with the asset-management firm TCW Group, in New York, Aug. 20, 2018. Tirschwell alleges her boss pressured her into sex. He denies it. Now discovery is underway on her million lawsuit. (Kholood Eid/The New York Times)

Written by David Gelles

On December 14, 2017, Sara Tirschwell was called into an unscheduled meeting with the general counsel and chief compliance officer of her employer, the giant asset-management firm TCW. Tirschwell, 53, was an experienced investor who had been hired the previous year to raise and run a new distressed debt fund for TCW. Entering the conference room, high above Midtown Manhattan, in New York City, she wasn’t sure what the meeting was about. It didn’t take long for her to find out: She was being fired.

TCW alleged that just days earlier, Tirschwell breached an ethical wall by telling an employee in a different department about a potential deal. It was Tirschwell’s fifth violation in less than 18 months, the company said — more than any other employee had accumulated in such a short time, and cause for termination.

As Tirschwell sat there processing the news, the chief executive of TCW, David Lippman, walked into the room. The company would offer her a severance package of $500,000 if she signed an agreement promising not to sue. “Look at me,” she recalled Lippman saying, according to a court filing. “This is not negotiable.”

Tirschwell left the meeting without accepting the offer. This wasn’t actually about compliance, she believed. It was retaliation. Because there was an entirely different narrative that Tirschwell thought explained why TCW was so eager to get rid of her: Just nine days earlier, she had made a formal complaint of sexual harassment.

On Dec. 5, Tirschwell had written TCW’s head of human resources to complain that her boss, Jess Ravich, had pressured her into sex several times during her tenure with the firm. When she stopped sleeping with Ravich, she claimed, he stopped supporting her fund, making it impossible for her to succeed at her job. The day after receiving her complaint, the human resources head and general counsel interviewed Tirschwell and promised to investigate. But then came her firing.

In January 2018, Tirschwell sued TCW, Ravich and Lippman for retaliation, gender discrimination and breach of contract, claiming damages in excess of $30 million. TCW, the complaint says, “manufactured a potentially career-ending charge by falsely accusing Tirschwell” and tried to “force a quiet exit” by having her drop her claims.

TCW, Lippman and Ravich deny the accusations. “These allegations are completely false,” Ravich said in a statement provided by his lawyer. He added: “As one of the seed investors in the distressed fund, it was in my financial best interest to help the fund succeed. Any claim that I withheld support for the fund is preposterous and completely illogical. I was Sara’s biggest supporter at TCW and had no role in the decision to fire her.”

Though little known beyond the world of finance, TCW is one of the most powerful names on Wall Street, managing some $191 billion for clients, including enormous pension funds in California and Texas. With headquarters in Los Angeles, the firm last made big headlines a decade ago, after the firing of a star bond investor, Jeffrey Gundlach, set off a sensational legal battle and revealed a sometimes raucous company culture. Since then, TCW has operated mostly under the radar — until Tirschwell’s lawsuit.

More than a year into the litigation, the two sides are at loggerheads. Unusually for a Wall Street firm, TCW has refused to settle, alleging that Tirschwell was a difficult and underperforming employee who saw she was in trouble and lodged a sexual harassment complaint before the company had the chance to let her go. Complicating matters, Tirschwell and Ravich had been dating as recently as 2013. When she joined TCW, her ex-boyfriend was suddenly her boss.

The case is slogging its way through the court system. Discovery is continuing, there is zero talk of cutting a deal and unless something dramatic happens, Sara Tirschwell v. TCW Group, David Lippman and Jess Ravich could become the first major Wall Street case of the #MeToo era to go to trial.

Days in court have been rare for the movement — and rarer still for Wall Street, where grievances are typically dealt with in private, and by wire transfer, when they are dealt with at all. Tirschwell’s battle with TCW is changing that, offering an uncommon look at how sex, money and power really work in a supposedly rarefied industry. But in a case this charged — with Tirschwell and Ravich directly contradicting each other in court filings — anyone looking for a tidy outcome is bound to be disappointed.

A Startling Narrative

Tirschwell and Ravich first met around 1994, when she worked for a trading firm called Libra Securities, where he…

Original Article Source…

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