Embarrassing revelations about sexual harassment in the workplace continue to emerge in the media as the national conversation about sexual misconduct has spread from tech, to entertainment and media to the constantly surveilled halls of one of America’s most successful and most controversial hedge fund firms.
In a report that further tarnishes the workplace culture at Bridgewater Associates - the world’s biggest hedge fund - just as its founder, Ray Dalio, is embarking on a book tour to tout the publication of “Principles”, his book about the various aphoristic imperatives meant to govern Bridgewater employees’ behavior if not the fund's buying/selling signals, the Wall Street Journal’s Rob Copeland has discovered that the firm paid $1 million to settle allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct against former co-CEO Greg Jensen, whom Dalio had briefly anointed as his successor, left the firm under a haze of acrimony a few years back.
Jensen was pushed out a few years back, purportedly after having a falling out with Dalio after reportedly criticizing his boss behind his back.
Jensen, who is married with three children, also allegedly had an affair with a female employee who was junior to him, a controversy which contributed to him leaving the firm.
Neither of the women are named by the Journal. However, in a surprising twist, WSJ reported that Dalio was personally involved in mediating Jensen’s disputes with both women - even negotiating a $1 million settlement with famed feminist attorney Gloria Allred, whom one of the women hired to represent her after being pushed out of the company after accusing Jensen of groping.
Because Jensen had a longer track record with the firm than his accuser did, WSJ reports that Dalio and the firm initially sided with him. Jensen, now 43, was directly mentored by Dalio, 68, and groomed over two decades to succeed him as leader of Bridgewater, which has some $160 billion in assets. Around the time both incidents were brought to the company’s attention roughly three years ago, Dalio was co-chief executive of the firm. He is now Bridgewater’s co-CEO and chief motivational speaker.
Of course, the woman who complained of groping wasn’t pushed out, Bridgewater’s spokesperson told WSJ. Instead, after meeting with Dalio, she decided “to pursue career opportunities elsewhere." Furthermore, the women in question aren’t the only employees to raise questions about Jensen’s inappropriate conduct.
Several current and former male and female Bridgewater employees said they were at times uncomfortable with Mr. Jensen’s behavior outside of the office and at company events.
At an official off-site company celebration in 2011, Mr. Jensen hired a stripper with a feathered boa to surprise Mr. Dalio on the dais in front of an estimated 1,000 guests, according to people present. They said the move appeared to reference a longstanding rumor, since confirmed by Mr. Dalio in his recently published autobiography, that Mr. Dalio was fired from an early job in part because he brought a stripper to a convention lecture.
Mr. Jensen has frequently hosted after-hours celebrations at his Connecticut home. Former employees said they referred to his pool house as the “party barn.” In one instance, Mr. Jensen challenged each employee at a company party attended by hundreds to take a shot of alcohol with him.
A Bridgewater spokesman said in a statement: “While we are prohibited from speaking to this case, our track record speaks for itself. Because of the people, procedures and culture we have in place, Bridgewater, over the course of its 43-year history, has had very few incidents, handled them thoughtfully, comprehensively and fairly, and has had no material adverse judgements."
“There are really more women than I can count—myself included—who would say Greg has been nothing but an inspiring mentor and deeply invested in their development.” said Karen Karniol-Tambour, a top deputy to Jensen.
Mr. Jensen said in a statement: “The Wall Street Journal’s accusations of my behavior are inaccurate and salacious. They are hurtful to my family and my reputation with those who don’t know me, so I am deeply disappointed with their sense of responsibility.”
Bridgewater co-chief executive Eileen Murray said in a statement: “I have seen firsthand how hard he has worked to create a professional and inclusive environment."
The WSJ amusingly notes that at one point, Dalio assigned the infamous former FBI chief, James Comey, Bridgewater’s then-general counsel, to question employees about Jensen’s conduct with subordinates, including his interactions with the female employee.
Amusingly, Dalio eventually told some at Bridgewater that "he couldn’t determine whether Mr. Jensen or the female employee were telling the truth about the relationship" adding that "Mr. Jensen’s overall believability had long been ranked particularly highly in Bridgewater’s rating metrics, meaning that his description of some details of the relationship carried extra credibility over hers, people familiar with the matter said."
Well, if Jansen's believability matrices were off the charts, clearly he was telling the truth, or something.
That said, given all the allegations about Bridgewater Associates’ workplace culture - which was characterized in a labor-board complaint filed a couple years ago as “paranoid” and “1984-esque” - these latest accusations appear to fit a pattern at the firm whereby top executives exercise immense power over their subordinates’ lives and careers. The revelations show the firm will support its leadership team even in the face of allegedly serious violations of workplace decorum.
So much for “radical transparency."