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A new lawsuit casts doubt on what billionaire Steve Cohen's deputies have been saying for years

Doug Haynes.

Wall Street Week

  • A female staffer at Point72, billionaire Steve Cohen’s investment firm, filed a lawsuit alleging widespread discrimination of women.
  • Two senior men targeted in the lawsuit, Doug Haynes and Mark Herr, have for years pushed the narrative that Point72 is a welcome place for women. Haynes presented at an all-women’s networking group, for instance, with Herr in attendance.
  • These public appearances occurred in the lead-up to the firm’s eventual opening up again to outside money as part of the firm’s rebrand.
  • In 2017, Haynes had the word “pussy” written across a whiteboard in his office for weeks, according to the suit. He also called a former female exec “a dumb blonde” and “routinely and brazenly disparaged her weight,” the suit said.
  • “The Firm emphatically denies these allegations and will defend itself in a more appropriate venue than the media,” a spokesman for Point72 said. “We stand by our record of hiring and developing women.”

A female employee at Point72 Asset Management, billionaire Steve Cohen’s investment firm, on Monday filed a lawsuit claiming widespread discrimination against women.

The lawsuit describes a culture in which women are vastly underpaid compared to men, judged by their physical appearance and refused entry to all-male meetings. The suit, filed by Lauren Bonner, an associate director running the firm’s talent analytics team, says that the investment professional hiring committee is comprised only of men; male execs have said that they “refuse to hire women” because their “wives won’t let them.”

Among the lawsuit’s targets are Doug Haynes, a former McKinsey director who is Point72’s president, and who is named as a defendant. The suit also contains allegations against Mark Herr, who heads the firm’s communications effort. Cohen is named in the suit in “his individual and professional capacity,” but does not face specific allegations.

Bonner’s claims against Haynes and Herr are striking. For years, the two have pushed the narrative that Point72 is open to women and committed to diversity. The men have made appearances at women’s networking events and spoken of the firm’s need to improve recruiting women. These public appearances occurred in the lead-up to the firm’s eventual opening up again to outside money as part of the firm’s rebrand. Cohen had been barred from managing outside capital until 2018, after his predecessor firm, SAC Capital, got shut down for insider trading.

In 2016, at a Manhattan networking event for women in hedge funds, Haynes told a nearly all-female audience that the hedge fund industry was suffering from sameness – and needed more women and other minorities in its ranks.

Hedge funders are “viewing the world the same way” with investment ideas duplicated more than ever, Haynes told the women, according to Business Insider’s report from the time.

“It’s not just [that the potential hire] has the same color and same gender. It’s that they went to the same schools, studied the same thing, played the same sports,” he added. “It’s very easy to hire that person and feel safe. Our industry has fallen into that trap.”

In contrast, Bonner’s lawsuit describes an old boy’s club culture at Point72 in which Haynes plays a key role. From her lawsuit:

  • In 2017, Haynes had the word “pussy” written across a whiteboard in his office for weeks. Haynes held meetings with women in this office, according to the suit.
  • Haynes oversees compensation for staffers – and women are paid from forty to sixty cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. From the suit: “Haynes, with the approval and ratification of Cohen, specifically decided Ms. Bonner’s level of compensation with full knowledge that her similarly situated male counterparts earned significantly more than she did.”
  • “Haynes openly referred to one former female executive as ‘a dumb blonde’ and routinely and brazenly disparaged her weight.”
  • “Haynes made another female employee draft a PowerPoint presentation less than 48 hours after giving birth, as well as participate in a conference call.”
  • “Haynes has complimented Ms. Bonner on her professional attire many times, routinely doing so in a transparent effort to humiliate his assistant based on her professional attire.”

Meanwhile, Herr, Point72 ‘s communications director, has been pitching reporters on Point72’s diversity efforts, noting that the firm has a higher than industry average of women and minorities on staff. He attended the women’s networking event in 2016, serving as the point person for reporters.

At the time, Herr told Business Insider that 7% of Point72’s investment staffers are women. While low, the figure does technically indicate that Point72 is a leader in this field, since estimates point to even lower figures for women in investment roles at hedge funds.

Herr has also pitched reporters on recruitment efforts of college-aged students in recent years. According to the lawsuit, Point72’s program has also discriminated against women. When Business Insider visited the program in 2015, all the students were men.

When Business Insider visited a Point72 training program in 2015, all the participants were men.

Portia Crowe

The suit says that Point72 offered jobs to half the number of women coming out of a competition related to the 2018 summer internship program, even though there were an equal number of men and women who made the first round.

Here are the other allegations in the lawsuit against Herr:

  • “Herr, the Head of Communications, has had multiple harassment complaints lodged against him, yet remains in a senior role at P72, as HR has simply stated to those who complain, “don’t bother pursuing this.”
  • “Male executives, including both Haynes and Herr, regularly offer unsolicited opinions about whether particular women are “attractive” or “look good,” and otherwise comment on the physique of female employees, including making comments about whether female employees look “old,” look older now than when they started at P72, or are “too skinny” or “blonde.” These comments objectify and marginalize female employees, their female co-workers and women generally, as it likely goes without saying that executives do not express opinions about whether male employees are “attractive,” “skinny” or “blonde.”
  • “Male executives, including Herr, openly discuss discriminatory reasons why they believe women do not succeed at P72, including, inter alia, because women want to have children, are too emotional and can be “hysterical,” care more about “work life balance” issues, and, perhaps most upsettingly, do not work as hard as men.”

Herr and Haynes didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story. Jonathan Gasthalter, a spokesman for Point72, said:

“The Firm emphatically denies these allegations and will defend itself in a more appropriate venue than the media. We stand by our record of hiring and developing women. In an industry where women are historically underrepresented, the hundreds of women at Point72 are vital members of every part of our organization. Our female investment professional workforce exceeds published industry averages – a direct result of our concerted and sustained focus on promoting diversity at Point72.”

In a statement to Business Insider, Bonner’s lawyers, Michael J. Willemin and Jeanne M. Christensen, partners at law firm Wigdor, said:

“As alleged, the insidious disparity between men and women at Point72 has resulted in women earning as little as 35 cents for each dollar earned by men and men making up virtually the entire leadership team. As noted in the Complaint, hiring and promotion decisions are made almost entirely by men, and the result is a statistical disparity at the highest levels that belies Point72’s purported efforts to develop its female talent. To make matters worse, as alleged, these underpaid women at Point72 work in a demeaning, abusive environment where men use the word “Pussy,” openly declare that “no girls [are] allowed” in meetings, and refuse to work with women because they are “too emotional.”

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