As Steve Cohen Closes In on Mets, Discrimination Claims Cast a Shadow

Sports


Steven A. Cohen, the hedge fund billionaire who’s on the verge of shopping for the Mets for about $2.4 billion, is used to getting what he needs.

He’s lengthy saved the temperature on the buying and selling flooring at his funding agency in Stamford, Conn., a cool 69 levels Fahrenheit to maintain his legion of merchants on their toes. If anybody doesn’t prefer it, they’ll put on a sweater, or a firm-branded fleece vest.

When the federal authorities pressured Mr. Cohen’s first hedge fund, SAC Capital Companions, to close down after it pleaded responsible to insider buying and selling expenses and paid a complete of $1.8 billion in fines, Mr. Cohen didn’t skulk away and rely his cash. He plotted a path to return to Wall Street and opened a brand new funding agency, Point72 Asset Administration, that expenses his rich patrons a few of the highest charges within the hedge fund business.

Now all that stands between Mr. Cohen, 64, and his decade-long pursuit of proudly owning a baseball staff — he beforehand made a play for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011 — is getting 23 of the 29 house owners of different M.L.B. golf equipment to present their blessing to the deal.

Mr. Cohen’s previous authorized wranglings with federal prosecutors and securities regulators will not be anticipated to trigger a lot of an issue for different house owners; he has been a minority proprietor of the Mets since 2012, in spite of everything. Having grown up in Nice Neck, N.Y., simply 12 miles east of Citi Subject, the present dwelling of the Mets, he has now amassed a fortune estimated to be $15 billion, which might make him by far the wealthiest proprietor within the main leagues.

An M.L.B. spokesman stated this week that the league had “just begun the due diligence process on the proposed transaction.” Previously, that course of has taken from between two to 6 months, with a file on the possible proprietor being distributed to the house owners earlier than a vote.

What would possibly give some house owners pause are a number of discrimination claims filed by girls who’ve labored for Mr. Cohen’s largely male-dominated agency in an business identified for its rough-and-tumble cowboy tradition, the place he’s revered as “the big guy.” Two complaints had been filed underneath seal earlier this 12 months with the Connecticut Fee on Human Rights and Alternatives. They’re nonetheless pending, based on a fee spokesman.

It’s not identified what particular claims had been raised within the two complaints filed this 12 months, which got here from Shannon Gitlin, who works within the investor relations division for Point72, and Sara Vavra, a former portfolio supervisor.

However an earlier grievance, filed in 2018 by Lauren Bonner in federal court in Manhattan, painted an image of a testosterone-fueled “boy’s club” at Mr. Cohen’s agency, wherein senior male staff repeatedly commented on girls’s our bodies, overtly belittled girls and their skills in conferences and feminine staff had been underpaid in comparison with their male counterparts. Ms. Bonner, who on the time was a prime govt in Point72’s recruitment division, claimed she was handled unfairly and denied promotions as a result of she is a lady.

M.L.B., too, has handled accusations of gender discrimination lately. In 2014, a league govt, Sylvia Lind, sued the commissioner’s office, saying she had been denied a promotion as a result of she was a Hispanic girl. Her case was later settled. In 2015, the Mets settled with an worker who had accused the staff of discriminating in opposition to her for being pregnant with out being married.

Extra lately, the Houston Astros fired an executive, Brandon Taubman, after he directed inappropriate feedback to a gaggle of feminine reporters after a postseason victory final October.

Ms. Bonner filed her lawsuit in early 2018, simply as Mr. Cohen was making his return to the hedge fund world. Point72 and Mr. Cohen finally reached an undisclosed settlement with Ms. Bonner just a few months in the past. Ms. Bonner, who declined to remark for this text, left the agency in August, based on her LinkedIn profile.

Essentially the most salacious declare in Ms. Bonner’s lawsuit was {that a} profane phrase had been written on a whiteboard in an workplace on the agency and remained there for a number of weeks, making some girls feeling uneasy.

However a few of Ms. Bonner’s preliminary claims about who wrote the offensive phrase look like inaccurate primarily based on subsequent authorized filings, and it stays unclear who wrote that phrase and for what cause.

Mr. Cohen responded to Ms. Bonner’s lawsuit by hiring Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy United States legal professional normal and companion with the legislation agency WilmerHale, to conduct an inner evaluate of the agency’s insurance policies towards feminine staff and to supply recommendation on the best way to foster greatest practices on the 1,000-employee agency.

Ms. Gorelick declined to debate her work, and referred all inquiries to Point72. A consultant for the agency stated the report that Ms. Gorelick produced was not public.

Whereas the lawsuit Ms. Bonner filed in federal court docket didn’t include any direct allegations in opposition to Mr. Cohen — although it did declare that a number of different individuals working on the agency had repeatedly made sexist and degrading feedback — an amended grievance filed in June 2019 throughout arbitration alleged that Mr. Cohen had retaliated in opposition to Ms. Bonner for submitting the lawsuit and going public together with her considerations.

The retaliation, Ms. Bonner stated within the authorized submitting, got here when Mr. Cohen circulated a report inside Point72 that confirmed Mr. Cohen’s picture had taken successful due to “gender litigation impact.” Within the arbitration submitting, Ms. Bonner stated that Mr. Cohen had directed the report — which pointed to numerous unfavorable information tales about him — to be distributed to staff across the workplace so as to intimidate her.

Arbitration complaints are usually not publicly filed. However the amended grievance filed by Ms. Bonner was in response to a defamation lawsuit filed by Douglas Haynes, Point72’s former president, who was additionally named as defendant within the matter together with Point72 and Mr. Cohen. Ms. Bonner had claimed that the offensive phrase had been written by Mr. Haynes on a whiteboard in his workplace, which Mr. Haynes denied, citing testimony from one other feminine worker at Point72 who stated that the whiteboard was not in his workplace and that she didn’t know who had written it.

Tiffany Galvin-Cohen, a spokeswoman for Point72, stated in an emailed assertion: “There were no adverse findings against Steve or P72. The matter was resolved to the parties’ mutual satisfaction.”

Jeanne Christensen, a lawyer for Ms. Bonner, stated she discovered it a bit uncommon that nobody representing the Wilpon household or Saul Katz, the present majority house owners of the Mets, had reached out to her to inquire about Ms. Bonner’s case, since a few of it was already public. She additionally stated nobody from M.L.B. had reached out to her, both.

The Mets declined to remark for this text.

Ms. Christensen is not any stranger to claims of gender discrimination at Point72. She can also be the legal professional for Ms. Gitlin in her discrimination grievance, however stated she couldn’t talk about that matter.

Whether or not any of these claims could have any have an effect on on Mr. Cohen’s path to the Mets’ proprietor’s field will finally be as much as the remainder of the league’s house owners.

David Waldstein contributed reporting.

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