MeToo mar­tyr or 'ma­nip­u­la­tor'?

He’s the pro­fes­sor who cham­pi­oned men’s rights af­ter spurn­ing an in­fat­u­ated as­sis­tant who then ac­cused HIM of im­pro­pri­ety. But this damn­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­veals why a judge sav­aged him — and threw out his £4m com­pen­sa­tion claim

Daily Mail - - EDEN CONFIDENTIAL - by An­to­nia Hoyle

CHArIS­MATIC and con­sci­en­tious, Dr Theodore Piepen­brock com­manded the re­spect of col­leagues and stu­dents alike. A se­nior teach­ing fel­low at the Lon­don School of Eco­nomics, his achieve­ments be­stowed on him a seem­ingly unas­sail­able con­fi­dence.

Hap­pily mar­ried to a fel­low aca­demic, with a son he adored and an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion for en­tre­pre­neur­ial ex­cel­lence, Theodore — known as Ted — ap­peared, six years ago, to have ev­ery­thing go­ing for him.

Since then, how­ever, his cir­cum­stances have changed. To­wards the end of 2012, Ted grew anx­ious, de­vel­oped de­pres­sion and ex­pe­ri­enced days when he didn’t want to face the world at all. His self-es­teem plum­meted as his once glit­ter­ing ca­reer gath­ered dust.

Al­though Ted’s on­go­ing de­pres­sion is com­plex, the in­ci­dent that trig­gered it is un­con­tested: his toxic re­la­tion­ship with an as­sis­tant half his age whose in­fat­u­a­tion with Ted, 52 — and his own and the LSE’s at­tempts to deal with it — ap­pears to have brought both him and his smit­ten sub­or­di­nate to the brink of break­down.

Ted had em­ployed a for­mer stu­dent, known only as ‘Miss D’ in a High Court judg­ment re­ported this week, as his grad­u­ate teach­ing as­sis­tant (GTA) in the LSE’s De­part­ment of Man­age­ment.

He says it be­came clear she had a crush on him; she dressed provoca­tively, be­haved sug­ges­tively and be­came ever more ob­sessed with him un­til one evening at a ho­tel suite dur­ing a work trip to the U.S. in 2012, she ap­peared be­fore him in a state of un­dress. Ted claims he re­jected her ad­vances sen­si­tively.

Yet when the work trip was over, Miss D lodged a com­plaint against Ted to the LSE, and her por­trayal of his be­hav­iour was some­what dif­fer­ent. She claimed that dur­ing their trip Ted hadn’t been the con­sum­mate pro­fes­sional he claimed.

There were con­ver­sa­tions, she said, dur­ing which he’d com­mented that she had a ‘ beau­ti­ful body’, de­scribed her as ‘ dam­aged’ and ‘un­sta­ble’, and a liar who used ‘feminine be­hav­iours to get con­trol over men’. And when, dur­ing an overnight meet­ing in a ho­tel room, she burst into tears out of fear and ex­haus­tion, she claims Ted ‘ mocked me hor­rif­i­cally, mim­ing a cry­ing baby’.

Af­ter lodg­ing her com­plaint, she cir­cu­lated it among oth­ers in her de­part­ment. Ted — who lives in Ox­ford with his wife So­phie Mar­nette, 49, a pro­fes­sor of me­dieval French stud­ies at Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity, and their 15- year- old pri­vately ed­u­cated son — grew dis­traught at the per­ceived stain on his char­ac­ter and was signed off work sick.

Months later, an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion found the com­plaint against him ‘not proven’ and the LSE’s di­rec­tor apol­o­gised for its han­dling of the case. But Ted’s anger to­wards his for­mer em­ployer, and the de­pres­sion he de­vel­oped as a re­sult of his or­deal, con­tin­ued to fes­ter.

So much so he sued the LSE for £4 mil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion, claim­ing the school was li­able for Miss D’s al­le­ga­tions which had caused him ‘psy­chi­atric in­jury’, had breached its Ha­rass­ment Pol­icy and acted in breach of its duty of care to him.

It is an au­da­cious sum of money, and not one the judge at Lon­don’s High Court felt Ted was en­ti­tled to. This month, the judg­ment from the ten-day hear­ing in July was handed down, re­veal­ing he’d lost his claim. MrS

Jus­tice Ni­cola Davies said that al­though there had been a ‘se­ries of fail­ures’ in the LSE’s man­age­ment of the com­plaint, the school could not have pre­dicted he would de­velop ‘psy­chi­atric in­jury’.

And while Ted was cleared of any im­pro­pri­ety, she de­liv­ered a scathing ver­dict on his con­duct in re­sponse to his as­sis­tant’s ac­tions, claim­ing his be­hav­iour ranged from ‘ in­ap­pro­pri­ate and in­ept to un­pro­fes­sional and wrong.’

More­over, she said, Miss D had not acted in an ‘ op­pres­sive or un­ac­cept­able’ man­ner and was in fact mo­ti­vated by con­cern that ‘ other young women could be sub­ject to the same treat­ment’.

Nonethe­less, Ted — who has launched an em­ploy­ment tri­bunal claim against the LSE, and an­nounced this week he will ap­peal the High Court de­ci­sion — seems in­tent on putting him­self for­ward as a spokesper­son for men who have faced un­founded al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. ‘In the #MeToo era, when sex­ual ha­rass­ment/abuse against women is fi­nally be­gin­ning to be right­fully ad­dressed, how do we bal­ance the needs to pro­tect both women and men?’ he asked, adding that he hopes his story ‘helps in some small way to con­trib­ute to a sen­si­ble de­bate, where well-in­ten­tioned peo­ple work to­gether to solve a very im­por­tant is­sue of our time’.

Of course, there is no deny­ing he has suf­fered. Yet it seems Miss D has had her own com­plaint swept aside and seen her own char­ac­ter as­sas­si­nated. She was not called to be a wit­ness, leav­ing oth­ers with the task of re-as­sem­bling her ac­tions in her ab­sence.

Speak­ing to the Mail this week, one for­mer as­so­ci­ate of Ted and Miss D claimed that Ted was a ‘re­ally good ma­nip­u­la­tor’ who sought to pro­mote his own ver­sion of events.

‘I know the stu­dent,’ they said. ‘He was the teacher. He had power over her. The onus was on him to check his own be­hav­iour.’ SO

is Ted Piepen­brock an in­no­cent vic­tim? Or a shrewd op­er­a­tor seek­ing to make mil­lions from his for­mer em­ployer as a re­sult of al­le­ga­tions made by a vul­ner­a­ble woman?

Ted met Miss D when she joined his two-year Mas­ters in Man­age­ment (MiM) course in 2010, shortly af­ter he had ar­rived at the LSE.

Born in the U.S. to Dutch par­ents, Ted was at the zenith of his ca­reer. ‘He was an en­gag­ing teacher and peo­ple liked his lec­tures,’ says his for­mer as­so­ci­ate. Miss D grad­u­ated the course with a distinc­tion and, in the sum­mer of 2012, asked Ted to su­per­vise her dis­ser­ta­tion. When she changed its topic twice, re­quir­ing more meet­ings, he sus­pected she was us­ing her stud­ies as an ex­cuse to spend time with him.

Con­cerned at her de­vel­op­ing crush, he told Miss D he could no longer su­per­vise her dis­ser­ta­tion, at which point, he says, she burst into tears. When he couldn’t find a re­place­ment su­per­vi­sor, he agreed to carry on.

Newly pro­moted to Di­rec­tor of Stud­ies for the MiM pro­gramme, he was en­ti­tled to an as­sis­tant. Given Miss D’s un­wanted at­ten­tion, it ap­pears strange he chose her, but he in­sisted she ‘was aware of the fact that our re­la­tion­ship was strictly of a pro­fes­sional na­ture’.

Af­ter her three-month ap­point­ment started in Septem­ber 2012, Ted claims Miss D of­ten wore miniskirts that re­vealed her un­der­wear and crawled on her hands and knees to plug in her lap­top in a need­lessly provoca­tive man­ner.

Much was made in court of her dress sense and suggestive ac­tions, paint­ing a car­i­ca­ture of a des­per­ate woman con­stantly seek­ing at­ten­tion. A col­league also gave ev­i­dence, sug­gest­ing that Miss D ‘ wasn’t dress­ing ap­pro­pri­ately to rep­re­sent the LSE’, but didn’t think it her place to raise it with her.

But the source the Mail spoke to, who knew her, says this sim­ply wasn’t true. ‘ She didn’t come across as some­one who would do that,’ they say, of the al­le­ga­tion she had crawled across the floor to tend to a com­puter lead. ‘There was noth­ing about her dress sense that stuck out. She was in­tel­li­gent and peo­ple liked her.’

Ted, how­ever, grew con­cerned enough to dis­cuss his as­sis­tant’s sus­pected crush with his wife So­phie, whom he met when they were stu­dents at Amer­ica’s Berke­ley Uni­ver­sity and mar­ried in 1996. Their mar­riage ap­pears as suc­cess­ful as it is long — So­phie re­cently

de­scribed Ted as ‘still as dash­ing and charm­ing as when I first met him’ — and she agreed to in­vite her hus­band’s as­sis­tant to their home for din­ner, to show how hap­pily mar­ried he was.

A long way from home and with an un­happy child­hood be­hind her (she later told Ted her fa­ther had sex­u­ally abused her), Miss D wel­comed the com­pany. Nonethe­less, the bizarre in­vi­ta­tion back­fired. Ted claimed Miss D grew even more flir­ta­tious and any in­ter­ven­tion from him, he says, was met with in­com­pre­hen­sion and tears.

It hardly seems sen­si­ble then, for him to have in­vited Miss D on a trip to Bos­ton and Seat­tle in Novem­ber 2012, where he was to speak to for­mer LSE stu­dents and at­tend a sum­mit of the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Strate­gic Lead­er­ship (IISL), which he founded.

As Mrs Jus­tice Ni­cola Davies put it in court: ‘He was suf­fi­ciently aware of Miss D’s at­ten­tion that he in­sti­gated a plan to show her that he was a hap­pily mar­ried man. This, alone, should have alerted the claimant, as the se­nior col­league, to the need to ob­serve pro­fes­sional bound­aries with Miss D, par­tic­u­larly when he em­barked upon the Amer­ica trip.’

Yet Ted agreed to meet at her ho­tel suite on the morn­ing of Novem­ber 12 where, he says, she opened the door wear­ing a top which did not cover her ‘pri­vate parts’. Shocked, he took Miss D — who has not com­mented on this al­leged in­ci­dent — to a Bos­ton park for three hours of in­tense dis­cus­sions as to why she shouldn’t be­have in­ap­pro­pri­ately. Whether it was nec­es­sary to re­mon­strate with her for so long is a mat­ter of opin­ion.

A text con­ver­sa­tion re­vealed in court be­tween Miss D and a col­league sug­gests her frag­ile state of mind the fol­low­ing day, when she told her col­league she had ‘done some­thing wrong’, that she had ‘messed up’.

Three days later, the two were greeted in Seat­tle by Ted’s friend and IISL fel­low, Mike Wargel. Ted sug­gested the three meet to dis­cuss the next day’s IISL sum­mit in his ho­tel. The meet­ing, which started af­ter mid­night, turned into an­other drawn- out ses­sion about Miss D’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour.

Ted claims Miss D grew hys­ter­i­cal and threat­ened to ‘ruin his life and ca­reer’ be­fore in­sist­ing se­cu­rity staff es­cort her to a taxi at around 4.30am to take her to a flight to her mother in New York.

Miss D, mean­while, said she was fright­ened, that Ted re­peat­edly called her a liar, threat­ened to ruin

her rep­u­ta­tion and that, as she called her mother and booked a flight to New York, he lin­gered with Mike out­side her ho­tel door.

Two con­flict­ing ver­sions of events, then, yet re­gard­less of whether she had ex­posed her­self to Ted or not, it is easy to see how the young woman would be in­tim­i­dated by an overnight al­ter­ca­tion in a ho­tel room with two mid­dle-aged men her pro­fes­sional se­niors. The judge, mean­while, said there was no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for Ted’s con­duct that night, and that he showed ‘an in­abil­ity to recog­nise and re­spect bound­aries, com­pounded by an ab­sence of in­sight into the dis­tress which he was caus­ing to a young woman’. Af­TEr

Ted re­turned to Lon­don, Miss D not only lodged a com­plaint, but sent an email to his fac­ulty pre­sent­ing her ver­sion of events. Told of the email and com­plaint, but not their con­tents, Ted’s para­noia, per­haps un­der­stand­ably, went into over­drive.

fear­ing he had been ac­cused of rape, Ted claims col­leagues re­fused to say hello and avoided him. It was, un­doubt­edly, a hor­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion to be in.

Yet while the judge agreed Miss D should not have dis­cussed a con­fi­den­tial mat­ter this way, the Mail’s source be­lieves her ac­tions were un­der­stand­able: ‘The email was her try­ing to de­fend her­self be­cause she didn’t have much of a voice. She didn’t know what he was go­ing to do and wanted to get her side out there.’ No­body, they in­sist, re­acted to the email: ‘I don’t know why he thinks peo­ple were ig­nor­ing him.’

That De­cem­ber, Ted was di­ag­nosed with de­pres­sion and signed off work sick. His med­i­cal records — shown to court — make dis­turb­ing read­ing. He suf­fered sui­ci­dal thoughts and So­phie, who li­aised with the LSE on his be­half, claimed he was too ill to be in­ter­viewed about Miss D’s com­plaint.

Yet while on sick leave he man­aged to travel to In­dia to give lec­tures, which, the judge said, raised ‘a real is­sue as to the cred­i­bil­ity’ of Ted and called into ques­tion ‘whether he was wholly jus­ti­fied in re­fus­ing to take part in any com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the LSE’.

And, says the for­mer as­so­ci­ate, ‘ re­fus­ing to co- op­er­ate, that makes me an­gry. I think he’s a master ma­nip­u­la­tor.’

In July 2013, the LSE’s di­rec­tor of Hr wrote to Ted and Miss D to say ef­forts to meet with Ted had not proved pos­si­ble, that the ev­i­dence he had ‘could not cor­rob­o­rate or dis­prove the al­le­ga­tions’ and that ‘I there­fore con­sider the only de­ci­sion I can prop­erly form on the com­plaint is that it is “not proven” — that is, I do not have ev­i­dence which proves or dis­proves the claim to my sat­is­fac­tion’.

De­spite re­peated re­quests from the Mail, Dr Piepen­brock has not re­sponded to the al­le­ga­tions against him.

A sorry sit­u­a­tion then, in which there is no win­ner. Miss D, full of ‘re­gret’ for the episode, is not be­lieved to have re­turned to Bri­tain since. She in­sists she had no in­ten­tion of broad­cast­ing her prob­lems with Ted un­til his ‘threats and er­ratic be­hav­iour’ forced her to do so.

Ted was sacked from a po­si­tion at Ashridge Busi­ness School in Hemel Hemp­stead in 2014, af­ter fall­ing out with a fe­male boss he de­scribed as an­gry and abu­sive — an in­ci­dent he at­tributes to the trauma he suf­fered at the LSE.

His be­hav­iour, how­ever, is not unim­peach­able. ‘He was in a po­si­tion of power, she looked up to him, and it got to the point where she felt un­safe,’ says his for­mer as­so­ci­ate, of Ted’s re­la­tion­ship with Miss D.

Put like that, many might won­der whether he is quite the mar­tyr he claims to be.

Ac­cused: Theodore Piepen­brock with his wife So­phie and son, whose iden­tity we have pro­tected

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