July 5, 2018 / 10:21 PM / 7 months ago

Sexism case against billionaire Cohen's Point72 goes to arbitrator

NEW YORK, July 5 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday said an arbitrator must review sexism claims by a female vice president against her employer Point72 Asset Management LP, enabling the hedge fund firm and its billionaire founder Steven Cohen to keep the matter out of the public eye.

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan said Lauren Bonner’s employment agreement “clearly and unmistakably” calls for an arbitrator to decide whether her claims should be arbitrated, requiring that Bonner’s lawsuit be put on hold.

Bonner, Point72’s head of talent analytics, has been seeking damages for what she called the “pervasive” sexism and hostile environment at Point72, including that men are paid better and denigrate women’s work and physical appearances.

Torres’ decision is a victory for Point72 and Cohen, allowing them to defend themselves in private proceedings rather than in courtrooms and through court filings.

Both have denied Bonner’s claims and stood by the Stamford, Connecticut-based firm’s treatment of women.

Cohen, worth $11.4 billion according to Forbes magazine, has not been accused of inappropriate behavior. Douglas Haynes, Point72’s former president, is also a defendant.

“Point72 continues to do all it can to sweep her claims into silence behind closed doors” in arbitration, Bonner’s lawyers Jeanne Christensen and Michael Willemin said in a statement. “We continue to aggressively pursue our client’s legal rights and look forward to holding Point72 accountable for its conduct.”

A Point72 spokeswoman said the firm is pleased an arbitrator will review the case, “as required by Ms. Bonner’s agreement.”

Point72 began managing outside capital this year, four years after Cohen was forced to shut down the former SAC Capital Advisors LP following its guilty plea in an unrelated insider trading case. Cohen was not charged.

Bonner joined Point72 in August 2016 and remains employed there.

She had accused it of operating as a “boys’ club” where men are often paid two or three times what their female counterparts are paid, and only one of 125 portfolio managers and one of roughly 30 managing directors were female.

Bonner said her employment contract’s arbitration clause did not cover her claims under the federal Equal Pay Act and state labor and human rights laws.

The law firm she hired, Wigdor LLP, recently pursued many employment-related cases against Twenty-First Century Fox Inc and Fox News.

Torres did not rule on the substance of Bonner’s claims or whether they should be arbitrated.

The case is Bonner v Point72 Asset Management LP et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-01233. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York Editing by Bill Rigby)

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