The bar for Wall Street hypocrisy has just been raised.
In a controversy that can only be described as hilariously ironic, Boston-based bank and asset manager State Street Corp – which famously created and installed the “fearless girl” statue, purportedly symbolizing Wall Street’s progress toward gender equality in the workplace - to be a symbol of Wall Street’s progress toward gender equality, earlier this year - has agreed to pay $5 million to settle claims that it systematically underpaid female and minority employees, according to the New York Post.
State Street assented to the fine – but refused to admit wrongdoing - after being audited by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The DOL alleges that the firm’s systemic pay discrimination dates back to at least 2010 and affected hundreds of employees, primarily in senior-level positions.
“OFCCP’s analysis demonstrates that a statistically significant disparity in compensation remained even when legitimate factors affecting pay were taken into account,” the Labor Department said Thursday in its filing.
The department alleges that black employees were also discriminated against, with at least 15 individuals being paid less in base salary and total compensation than their “similarly-situated” white peers.
By installing the statue, State Street hoped to kill two birds with one stone: Burnishing its reputation as a female-friendly employer while helping to market its new “SHE” ETF, which invests in female-led companies.
However, the statue was quickly denounced as a transparent marketing ploy, and the bank was roundly criticized by a memorable coalition of feminists, bankers and even the Italian sculptor who created Wall Street’s charging bull. Though that didn’t stop the judges at the Cannes Ad Festival from lavishing McCann, the advertising firm that helped create the statue, with three top awards.
Compounding the irony, State Street used the statue’s installation as an opportunity to tout its efforts to promote more women to senior level positions – a program that was reportedly initiated by CEO Joseph Hooley in 2010 – the same year that the bank began underpaying women, according to the DOL’s complaint.
For what it’s worth, the bank has denied the allegations.
“State Street is committed to equal pay practices and evaluates on an ongoing basis our internal processes to be sure our compensation, hiring and promotions programs are nondiscriminatory,” a spokesperson said. “While we disagreed with the OFCCP’s analysis and findings, we have cooperated fully with them, and made a decision to bring this six-year-old matter to resolution and move forward.”
The findings from the audit were filed in Boston on Wednesday, along with the settlement agreement.
Twitter users quickly blasted the bank for its hypocrisy and blatant cynicism.
Ironic: the Raging Bull is a piece of guerilla art. Fearless Girl is a marketing ploy by State Street, a company that underpays women. https://t.co/yT9jCyJnUM— Stanley Pignal (@spignal) October 6, 2017
Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.