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Sex & Coercion at the World’s Largest Hedge Fund

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:50 PM
Justin OConnell
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:50 PM

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An employee at the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, filed a complaint earlier this year that the hedge fund resembled a “cauldron of fear and intimidation.”

The employee filed the complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. In it, he describes an atmosphere of surveillance by video, recordings of all meetings, and security guards on patrol designed to ensure employee silence and conformity.

Interviews with seven former employees who have worked for or with the $154 billion firm, as well as a National Labor Relations Board filing, shed light on how the firm works internally. Bridgewater secrecy is so important that some employees must lock up their personal cell phones when they arrive to work in the morning.

34-year-old Christopher Tarui said in his complaint that his male supervisor sexually harassed him for approximately one year, propositioning him for sex and discussing sex during work trips.

Since he filed his complaint, Bridgewater top managers have pressured Mr. Tarui to rescind the allegations. One manager accused him of lying. Mr. Tarui, he said, was “blowing this whole thing out of proportion.” Fearing losing his job or risking chances for promotion, Mr Tarui has kept his complaint quiet.

“The company’s culture ensures that I had no one I could trust to keep my experience confidential,” Mr Tarui said in the January complaint.

For unknown reasons, both Bridgewater and Mr Tarui both asked the Connecticut human rights commission to stop considering the complaint. Bridgewater’s employment agreement ensures employee disputes must be settled through binding arbitration.

The National Labor Board then filed a different complaint against Bridgewater, stating the company “has been interfering with, restraining and coercing” Mr Tarui, as well as other employees, from exercising their rights.

Former employees cited a party culture at the hedge fund. An off-site trip in 2012 saw employees get drunk and go skinny dipping, prompting complaints from other employees.

Mr. Tarui has been on paid leave since January 6, two days before he filed his harassment complaint. The labor relations board claims that Mr. Tarui’s suspension came after he “threatened to file a charge with the board.

Mr. Tarui claims sexual advances started during a May 2014 business trip in Denver. A supervisor “caressed the small of my back” as the two men were seated on a couch in the supervisor’s hotel room. Mr. Tarui left the room.

The supervisor continued to hit on him, according to Mr. Tarui in the complaint. The supervisor told Mr. Tarui he had an “itch to scratch” and asked whether Mr. Tarui had ever “thought about being other men.”  Mr. Tarui replied he “was not wired that way.” The supervisor persisted, and “specifically asked whether I would consent to having a sexual experience with him.” Mr. Tarui declined. The supervisor continued with sexual advances into the summer of 2015.

Mr. Tarui first complained when the supervisor gave him a bad job performance rating, despite his having been promoted with a pay raise during the period. In a recorded meeting,  he told the Bridgewater human resources representative and another top manager about the sexual harassment. The recordings from the video were “widely shared” among management, according to Mr. Tarui.

“While it is difficult for our management team to independently judge the merits of this claim, we are confident our handling of this claim is consistent with our stated principles and the law,” Bridgewater stated in email. “We look forward to operating through a legal process that brings the truth to light.”

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