Gold­man exec al­leges gen­der bias

While on ma­ter­nity leave, vice pres­i­dent lost her job over ‘strate­gic busi­ness plan­ning rea­sons.’

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Sab­rina Willmer Willmer writes for Bloomberg.

Two years ago, Ta­nia Mir­chan­dani, a Gold­man Sachs Group Inc. vice pres­i­dent in Los An­ge­les, told her boss she was preg­nant with her third child. He was skep­ti­cal she could bal­ance a large fam­ily with her de­mand­ing job, she re­called. That’s “a lot of mouths to feed,” she quoted him as say­ing.

Mir­chan­dani, a 15-year Gold­man Sachs vet­eran, fig­ured that her su­per­vi­sor, of all peo­ple, would have un­der­stood her dilemma. John Mal­lory, then a Gold­man part­ner and ris­ing star over­see­ing wealth man­age­ment for the West Coast, had four chil­dren of his own.

In Oc­to­ber 2016, weeks be­fore she was sched­uled to re­turn, Mal­lory called her with some bad news: She was out of a job. “I’m on ma­ter­nity leave, John,” she re­mem­bered telling him, as she fought back tears.

Mir­chan­dani de­tailed her dis­missal in a 2017 gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion com­plaint against Gold­man — a doc­u­ment only re­cently dis­closed through a pub­lic-records re­quest to the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Fair Em­ploy­ment and Hous­ing.

Mal­lory re­ferred ques­tions to Gold­man, which de­nied any bias in her dis­missal. Spokesman Michael DuVally said she had been ter­mi­nated “for strate­gic busi­ness plan­ning rea­sons” that had noth­ing to do with her preg­nancy or leave. As part of a re­view of the com­pany’s pri­vate wealth man­age­ment busi­ness, male man­agers also lost their jobs, he said.

“Gold­man Sachs is com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing em­ploy­ees who are new par­ents, and takes its obli­ga­tions and the laws re­lat­ing to them very se­ri­ously,” DuVally said in an email.

In her com­plaint and an in­ter­view with Bloomberg, Mir­chan­dani al­leged that she lost her job be­cause she took Gold­man’s en­tire four­month paid fam­ily leave. In an ar­bi­tra­tion pro­ceed­ing still pend­ing be­fore the Fi­nan­cial In­dus­try Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity, she is seek­ing more than $1.5 mil­lion in dam­ages.

The dis­pute re­flects a ten­sion in cor­po­rate Amer­ica, espe­cially on Wall Street. Gold­man and other elite com­pa­nies pro­mote more gen­er­ous fam­ily-friendly poli­cies as part of widely pub­li­cized diver­sity ini­tia­tives con­sid­ered es­sen­tial to at­tract­ing tal­ent.

Yet, for all these ef­forts, only a quar­ter of a mil­lion women take paid ma­ter­nity leave each month, a level that has re­mained es­sen­tially un­changed since the 1990s, ac­cord­ing to a 2017 study by Bos­ton Univer­sity busi­ness school pro­fes­sor Jay Zagorsky.

That fig­ure may in­di­cate that women avoid tak­ing leaves for fear of dam­ag­ing their ca­reers, he said. U.S. com­pa­nies con­tinue to face thou­sands of preg­nancy dis­crim­i­na­tion claims each year, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral data.

Even if women do come back to work, “very of­ten they aren’t re­turned to the same po­si­tion,” said Cara Greene, an em­ploy­ment lawyer at Out­ten & Golden. “They aren’t given back their ac­counts or clients.”

Greene’s firm rep­re­sents women in a class-ac­tion gen­der bias law­suit against Gold­man that is still be­ing fought af­ter a com­plaint was first filed 13 years ago. Plain­tiffs say they too faced reprisals when they re­sumed work af­ter ma­ter­nity leave: One claimed that Gold­man stripped her of ac­counts, while the other said the com­pany passed her up for a pro­mo­tion.

In 2010, Gold­man set­tled a law­suit brought by Char­lotte Hanna, a for­mer vice pres­i­dent who said she was pushed onto the “mommy track” af­ter re­turn­ing from her first preg­nancy and then dis­missed a week be­fore com­ing back af­ter hav­ing her sec­ond child. In both the class-ac­tion and Hanna law­suits, Gold­man de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Mir­chan­dani first learned about Gold­man when she won an in­vest­ment bank­ing com­pe­ti­tion spon­sored by the com­pany dur­ing her ju­nior year at UC Berke­ley. She started as a Gold­man an­a­lyst in the late 1990s, leav­ing in 2003 to earn an MBA at UCLA be­fore re­turn­ing to Gold­man two years later. She said she man­aged $300 mil­lion for a dozen clients. Dur­ing her time at the firm, Gold­man tapped her to re­cruit job can­di­dates.

Mal­lory had also joined Gold­man in the 1990s af­ter work­ing sev­eral years at Brown Brothers Har­ri­man & Co. He was known for his close re­la­tion­ship with the Stein­bren­ner fam­ily, which owns the New York Yan­kees. In 2007, he helped rene­go­ti­ate star Alex Ro­driguez’s $275-mil­lion con­tract.

While they ended up in the same line of work, their home lives dif­fer greatly. Mir­chan­dani’s hus­band, Di­nesh, works full time. He is chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of BandMerch, which pro­vides mer­chan­dis­ing for mu­si­cians. Mal­lory’s wife, Tracy, quit her ca­reer in fi­nance in her 20s, she wrote in a post on the web­site of her alma mater, Dart­mouth Col­lege. She de­scribed her­self as “CEO, COO, lo­gis­tics co­or­di­na­tor, driver, chef and ther­a­pist for Mal­lory Fam­ily Inc.”

At work, Mir­chan­dani said in an in­ter­view, she had dif­fi­culty con­nect­ing with Mal­lory. He would or­ga­nize out­ings, which in­cluded sport­ing events and drinks, that ex­cluded fe­male ad­vi­sors, she said. “If you didn’t know sports, it didn’t work with him,” she said.

In 2013, Mir­chan­dani said in an in­ter­view, she re­turned from ma­ter­nity leave af­ter her first child and dis­cov­ered that her male part­ner no longer wanted to work with her. She asked Mal­lory if she could work with other teams, but he left her on her own, she said.

Two years later, while ex­pect­ing her sec­ond child, she had cul­ti­vated a re­la­tion­ship with a wealthy In­dian fam­ily that had yet to com­mit to Gold­man. She felt she had a spe­cial bond be­cause her mother, an ar­chi­tect, and her fa­ther, a real es­tate en­tre­pre­neur, were from In­dia.

When she re­turned from leave, Mal­lory told her the ac­count had been as­signed to the team of a male ad­vi­sor who had met with the In­dian fam­ily while she was out, she said in the in­ter­view. The fam­ily’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer then in­sisted she be in­volved, though she re­ceived only 20% of com­mis­sions, she said. “De­ci­sions about team as­sign­ments within the of­fice or client re­la­tion­ships are driven only by per­for­mance,” said DuVally, the Gold­man spokesman.

Mir­chan­dani said Gold­man al­lowed ma­ter­nity leave, then ex­pected women to have the same pipeline of busi­ness im­me­di­ately on their re­turn. “Come back from four months and, a week later, it is like ‘What are you do­ing for me?’ ” she said. In her state com­plaint, she claimed it was “stan­dard prac­tice” for Gold­man to pres­sure women to keep their leaves as short as pos­si­ble.

Gold­man de­nied any such pres­sure. The com­pany’s poli­cies — 16 weeks of paid leave to pri­mary care­givers, both nat­u­ral and adopt­ing par­ents — “are ex­plic­itly de­signed” to sup­port new par­ents, DuVally said. The com­pany also struc­tures pay to help re­turn­ing par­ents, main­tain­ing com­mis­sion-based com­pen­sa­tion dur­ing the leave and for months be­fore and af­ter, he said.

When Mal­lory called to dis­miss Mir­chan­dani in 2016, he al­luded to is­sues he had with her per­for­mance, even though there were no prior warn­ings, she said in an in­ter­view.

But she claims she was the only per­son cut in the Los An­ge­les of­fice, and that she knows of male ad­vi­sors who kept their jobs even though they had per­formed worse than she did.

DuVally said Gold­man “de­nies that Ms. Mir­chan­dani was ter­mi­nated for any other rea­son than strate­gic busi­ness plan­ning rea­sons.”

Since she left Gold­man, her for­tunes and Mal­lory’s con­tin­ued to di­verge. Mir­chan­dani, 41, has had trou­ble find­ing an­other job in fi­nance and now works for her fam­ily’s real es­tate busi­ness. In April, Mal­lory, 48, won a pro­mo­tion at Gold­man. He now over­sees wealth man­age­ment for the en­tire U.S. and Latin Amer­ica.

Richard Drew As­so­ci­ated Press

GOLD­MAN SACHS de­nies any bias in a vice pres­i­dent’s dis­missal two years ago and says it had noth­ing to do with her preg­nancy or leave. Above, the com­pany’s logo ap­pears at the New York Stock Ex­change in 2016.

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