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Sexual Harassment Allegations Rock Fidelity Investments

Claims of sexual harassment have allegedly resulted in two executives exiting financial services company Fidelity Investments, according to the Wall Street Journal. As a result, the company is enlisting the help of a consulting firm to conduct a review of its employee behavior history.

The accusations come as Hollywood deals with the aftermath of Harvey Weinstein, who was fired from his position as co-chairman of The Weinstein Company after numerous claims of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape were made against him, allegedly spanning over at least three decades. Weinstein was also expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

According to WSJ, the two former employees are Gavin Baker and Robert Chow. Baker served as a tech fund manager and allegedly harassed a younger female employee. He was fired from the company earlier this month, with Chairman and CEO Abigail Johnson signing off on the decision.

Chow had been with Fidelity for three decades and in his most recent role was serving as a senior investment manager for private portfolios. According to WSJ, the company “pushed” Chow to resign. A source reported to Reuters that he “had been forced out.”

“Fidelity’s policies specifically prohibit harassment in any form,” the company said in a statement reported by Reuters. “When allegations of these sorts are brought to our attention, we investigate them immediately and take prompt and appropriate action.”

According to the Boston Globe, Abigail Johnson, chairman and CEO of Fidelity, made the decision to fire Baker, who is reportedly denying the claims against him.

“Gavin left Fidelity amicably a few weeks before planning to become engaged to his longtime girlfriend who is an analyst and fund manager there, as he believes his new fiancée and he should not work at the same firm,” a spokesperson said for Baker, according to the Boston Globe. “After a great 18 years at Fidelity that he’s very grateful to have experienced he’s excited to begin a new job later this month.”

Johnson has been Fidelity’s CEO since 2014, at which time she succeeded her father, Edward “Ned” Johnson III. She took on the role of chairman just last year. The company was founded by her grandfather, Edward Johnson II. She ranked No. 29 on the Forbes 400 for 2017, with only three other women ahead of her. In 2016 Forbes pegged her as No. 16 on its Power Women list, which ranks women globally, not just in the United States.

Just last month in an interview on “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations,” Johnson acknowledged a gender gap in the company.

“We have a real need in our business right now to recruit more women,” she said. According to Johnson, “very often, the first thing [women] say when we’re trying to get them paired up with a rep is, ‘I’d like to work with a woman.’”

A breakdown of Fidelity’s employees could not be found on its website. But statistics on women at financial services companies give a bleak outlook for females looking to get in the field. According to an analysis of 50 American financial services companies conducted by Harvard Business Review, “women occupy only 20% of executive committee roles and 22% of board positions. Only 12% of the chief executive officers of large U.S. financial firms are women.”

HBR reported that when it comes to the financial services world, the boys’ club mindset still lingers:

“… Oliver Wyman surveyed 850 financial services professionals from around the world (both men and women), interviewed over 100 senior female executives globally (C-suite and board members), and held focus groups with Millennial women working across a number of financial institutions in the U.S. Responses revealed a culture that has changed surprisingly little over the last 30 years. The overt sexism of earlier times may have been stamped out, but unconscious biases and gender-role expectations that disadvantage women have not.”

In light of the accusations at Fidelity the company may be looking to build a more transparent culture. Reuters reported that following Baker’s firing, Brian Hogan, president of Fidelity’s stock funds division, called a meeting earlier this month to discuss the company’s stance on misconduct. A source told Reuters that Hogan emphasized Fidelity’s “zero-tolerance policy” for harassment and reminded employees they can use a chairman’s hotline “to report any concerns anonymously.”

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