National News

Chief of a Hedge Fund Being Sued Quits

Posted March 17, 2018 6:33 p.m. EDT
Updated March 17, 2018 6:36 p.m. EDT

A top executive at the investment firm led by billionaire investor Steven A. Cohen has stepped down a month after a female employee sued the firm over accusations that it underpaid female employees and fostered a hostile work environment.

Douglas D. Haynes resigned as president of the firm, Point72 Asset Management, on Friday, according to five people briefed on the matter but not authorized to speak publicly because the suit is continuing. Haynes, a former executive at McKinsey & Co. who joined Point72 in 2014, is named as a defendant in the suit.

The firm confirmed Haynes’ departure to employees in a letter Friday. In the letter, Cohen thanked Haynes for his work at Point72.

The letter, a copy of which was seen by two of the people who spoke to The New York Times, did not address the lawsuit or the allegations in it. The two people said that Haynes’ departure was not related to the litigation.

Haynes could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

In the suit, which was filed last month in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Lauren Bonner, an associate director at the firm, said Haynes had belittled female employees — calling one a “dumb blonde” — and had a whiteboard in his office on which the word “pussy” was written in large letters and left there for several weeks last year.

Point72, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut, said in a statement after the suit was filed that it “emphatically denies these allegations.” In court, lawyers for Cohen and Point72 have sought to move the matter to arbitration. Early Saturday, Ellen Davis, a Point72 spokeswoman, said, “The firm’s view remains that the lawsuit is without merit.”

Davis said in a subsequent statement, “Steve Cohen wants to make sure that his firm is living up to its stated values and fostering a respectful workplace.” As part of that effort, she said, Cohen had retained the prominent law firm WilmerHale “to conduct an independent assessment and provide legal advice that will help to improve the firm’s policies and procedures, strengthen its culture and foster best practices.”

Leading the review, the people familiar with the matter said, is Jamie Gorelick, a Wilmer partner who is a former deputy U.S. attorney general. Several women at Point72 had been interviewed by lawyers as part of the review, the people said.

When it was filed, Bonner’s suit threatened to complicate Cohen’s efforts to convert his $11 billion firm from an entity that manages only his family’s money into a hedge fund that would also manage $2 billion to $4 billion from outside investors. The suit was also among the most prominent to accuse a major Wall Street firm of workplace misconduct amid a national reckoning on sexual harassment.

Haynes was one of the first people Cohen hired after shutting down his former hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, after it pleaded guilty to insider trading charges and paid $1.8 billion in fines and penalties in 2014.

Haynes was brought in to serve as managing director for human capital but soon was named president. He was seen as an important figure in Cohen’s efforts to prove to federal authorities that Point72 would adhere to high ethical standards. That he was accused of belittling and being dismissive of female employees was significant given that he was brought in to help clean up the firm’s culture.

In his letter to Point72 employees, Cohen, who is also named as defendant in Bonner’s suit, said he would serve as the firm’s president while searching for a successor to Haynes.

Bonner does not accuse Cohen of behaving inappropriately toward women. Her suit says that Point72’s female employees were, on average, paid much less than their male counterparts. It also notes that only one of the 125 portfolio managers of the firm’s roughly 1,000 employees was a woman.

Bonner’s lawyer, Jeanne M. Christensen, suggested in an email Saturday that Haynes’ resignation would not have an impact on the litigation.

“We will continue to aggressively pursue her claims alleging systemic unequal pay for female employees at P72 and a work environment that marginalizes and demeans women,” Christensen said.