Goldman ‘Boy’s Club’ Accused of Sexualizing, Ignoring Women

Jul 02, 2014 1:11 pm ET

(Updates with Goldman rebuttal in eighth paragraph.)

July 2 (Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was accused by two former employees seeking to expand their lawsuit of discriminating against women while male colleagues engaged in binge drinking and took clients to strip clubs.

The women asked a federal judge in Manhattan yesterday to let them sue on behalf of current and former female associates and vice presidents. Support for their claims includes statements of former Goldman Sachs employees, expert statistical analyses and evidence on earnings and promotions from the firm’s own records, they said in a court filing.

“Women report a ‘boy’s club’ atmosphere, where binge drinking is common and women are either sexualized or ignored,” according to the filing.

The two women, H. Cristina Chen-Oster and Shanna Orlich, sued in 2010 and are seeking to broaden the case to include more than a decade of claimed discrimination at Goldman Sachs. A decision by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres to allow the women to sue as a class would increase the risk to the New York- based company.

In the lawsuit, filed in 2010, the women seek unspecified damages and an order requiring Goldman Sachs to fix the alleged gender bias at the firm.

Salaries, Promotions

Female vice presidents earned 21 percent less than men and female associates made 8 percent less, the former employees claimed. About 23 percent fewer female vice presidents were promoted to managing director of the bank relative to their male counterparts, they said.

Those statistics are attributed to an analysis of Goldman Sachs pay data by Henry S. Farber, a Princeton University economist. His samples included all associates and vice presidents in the firm’s New York class from 2003 to 2011 and throughout the U.S. from 2005 to 2011, according to a court filing yesterday.

Goldman Sachs has denied the women’s claims and is fighting the case. The bank believes the statistical arguments are misleading and don’t compare similar employees to one another, said a person briefed on its legal strategy who requested anonymity because the firm hasn’t responded to the data in court.

“This is a normal and anticipated procedural step for any proposed class action lawsuit and does not change the case’s lack of merit,” David Wells, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

Strip Clubs

Chen-Oster and Orlich are seeking to persuade Torres that their claims are sufficiently similar to those of other women at Goldman Sachs so they can represent them in a single case.

They’re asking Torres to certify a class of female associates and vice presidents who worked for the company in the U.S. in its investment banking, investment management and securities divisions beginning Sept. 10, 2004. The start date for employees who worked in New York City would be July 7, 2002.

Denise Shelley, a vice president who left the firm in 2009, said in a court filing that men at Goldman Sachs repeatedly called women “bimbos,” mocked a new hire who had won a beauty pageant and took clients to strip clubs. Shelley said in the filing that she sat on the steering committee of the firm’s network for women and, after joining colleagues at a bar, was called a “party girl” by a managing director.

The case is Chen-Oster v. Goldman Sachs & Co., 10-cv-06950, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

--With assistance from Elizabeth Dexheimer and Michael J. Moore in New York.