Wall Street learns the high cost of sexist comments

While Wall Street traders’ excesses and verbal outrages have been the subject of numerous films, the heads of big companies and financial groups generally have done their best to stay above the fray, though not all have succeeded. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 October 2019

Wall Street learns the high cost of sexist comments

  • Several financial entities broke ties with Fisher Investments

NEW YORK: The #MeToo movement recently reached dramatically into the world of high finance, as one prominent Wall Street figure learned after losing the management of at least $1 billion in assets over his disparaging remarks about women.
Ken Fisher, whose slickly produced videos promoting his financial expertise still air regularly on American financial news networks, was invited in early October to a conference in San Francisco.
The conference, which advertises a “no media” policy, was supposed to remain private.
But one participant, Alex Chalekian, said he felt so disturbed by some of Fisher’s remarks, many with strong sexual undertones, that he took to Twitter to vent his outrage.
He posted a video blasting Fisher’s references to “genitalia” and drug use, as well as his comparison of the recruiting of a new client to a crass and boorish attempt to pick up a girl in a bar.
“Things that were said by Ken Fisher were just absolutely horrifying,” Chalekian said. He said several women who attended the event later told him Fisher’s remarks made them feel “very uncomfortable.”
Fisher subsequently expressed regret for his comments, saying in a message to AFP that “I realize this kind of language has no place in our company or industry. I sincerely apologize.”
But the damage was done. Several financial entities broke ties with Fisher Investments, which manages some $112 billion.
The city of Boston was among those.
“Boston will not invest in companies led by people who treat women like commodities,” said Mayor Marty Walsh.
According to a tally by the CNBC network, Fisher Investments lost around $1 billion in managed assets within days.
The total could grow, since Fidelity Investments, one of the world’s largest asset managers, expressed its unhappiness and said it was reviewing the relationship.
“We are very concerned about the highly inappropriate comments by Kenneth Fisher,” a Fidelity spokesperson said. “The views he expressed do not align in any way with our company’s values. We do not tolerate these types of comments at our company.”
Fisher manages about $500 million in Fidelity’s assets, CNBC said.
While Wall Street traders’ excesses and verbal outrages have been the subject of numerous films, the heads of big companies and financial groups generally have done their best to stay above the fray, though not all have succeeded.
“The brand is the company’s value and the CEO is identified with the brand,” said Charles Elson, a specialist in corporate governance at the University of Delaware, “which is why it’s just a really good idea for a CEO to focus on running the business and to avoid getting into political or social controversy when speaking publicly.
“When they do, it naturally creates problems.”
Travis Kalanick, a co-founder of Uber, was thus forced out in 2017 amid reports that the company’s workplace culture included sexual harassment and discrimination.
Elon Musk had to give up the chairmanship of Tesla this year after his Twitter use got him in trouble with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, Wall Street’s “policeman.”
In September, the co-founder of WeWork, Adam Neumann, stepped down as chief executive amid complaints about his lavish lifestyle and some impulsive actions that he himself said had become “a significant distraction.”
Across the world of high finance, meanwhile, Fisher’s remarks were widely denounced.
Art Hogan, chief market strategist with National Holdings, said that “it’s never appropriate to use that kind of language. That would be true today, and it was 20 years ago.”
“Maybe it was the norm back to a time of the TV show ‘Mad Men,’” which was set mostly in the New York advertising world of the 1960s, “but it has not been in my career.”
And in a world where the “ESG investing trend” is growing, Hogan said — referring to an emphasis on environmentalism, social issues and governance concerns — “it even speaks louder.”
Gregori Volokhine, president of Meeschaert Financial Services, said that Fisher’s remarks were not necessarily anything new in the financial world.
“Except now, everyone is afraid between the rise of the #MeToo movement and ESG management,” Volokhine said.


Palestinian journalists protest wounding of colleague

Updated 17 November 2019

Palestinian journalists protest wounding of colleague

  • Muath Amarneh has been in an Israeli hospital since he was hit in the eye Friday during clashes
  • Dozens of Palestinian journalists rallied Sunday with one eye covered in solidarity

JERUSALEM: “The eyes of truth will never be blinded,” protesters’ placards read, as Palestinian journalists wore eye patches Sunday to decry the wounding of a colleague in the occupied West Bank.
Muath Amarneh has been in an Israeli hospital since he was hit in the eye Friday during clashes between Israeli border police and Palestinian demonstrators in the village of Surif, close to Hebron in the southern West Bank.
Dozens of Palestinian journalists rallied Sunday — protesting with one eye covered in solidarity.
Amarneh, who is being treated in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, said he was some way from the protesters when he was hit by what he believes was Israeli fire.
“After the clashes started, I was standing to the side wearing a flak jacket with press markings and a helmet,” the freelance cameraman told AFP on Sunday.
“Suddenly I felt something hit my eye, I thought it was a rubber bullet or a stone. I put my hand to my eye and found nothing.”
“I couldn’t see and my eye was completely gone.”
He said doctors at the hospital told him a fragment of metal, about 2 centimeters long, pierced the eye and settled behind it near the brain.
Amarneh’s cousin Tareq, accompanying him in hospital, said doctors planned to extract the metal but changed their minds after discovering they could also damage the right eye or even trigger bleeding in the brain.
A spokesman for the Israeli police denied that the photographer was targeted, saying fire was “not directed at all” toward him.
“The security forces operated in the area in front of dozens of rioters, some of them masked, who threw stones at officers and burned tires,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
“The response by the forces was using non-lethal means in order to disperse the rioters.”
Amarneh, who comes from the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, claimed he was targeted as a journalist.
“There is an unnatural and ugly targeting of journalists,” the father-of-two said.
Since the incident Palestinian journalists have launched a campaign, with protests in several cities in the West Bank.
In Bethlehem Sunday, border police dispersed a sit-in by journalists at the checkpoint north of the city, an AFP journalist said.
Demonstrators wore eye patches and held signs aloft.
Tear gas cannisters were fired by the border police, the journalist said.
Seven people were lightly wounded, according to Palestinian health officials.
In the city of Tulkarem, about 250 journalists took part in a sit-in to show solidarity, according to journalists present.
A video and photos of Amarneh spread immediately after his injury, with journalists trying to carry him with blood flowing from his left eye.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate says 60 journalists have been hit by live ammunition this year, the majority in Gaza — an enclave where violent weekly protests along the border often lead to dozens of demonstrators being wounded.