Saturday 25 November 2017

Wall Street culture in the dock as high-flyer told to pay $18m in sexual harassment case

New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange
Benjamin Wey and Hanna Bouveng outside court last month

Philip Sherwell

In the latest case to put the spotlight on America's financial district, a Wall Street high-flyer has been ordered to pay $18m (€16.2m) in damages to a former employee after he sexually harassed her and pursued a vicious online smear campaign when she spurned him.

A New York federal jury awarded $2m in compensatory damages and added $16m in punitive damages for Hanna Bouveng (25), after she sued her married former boss, Benjamin Wey (43) and his business.

Ms Bouveng, a Swedish former model, testified that Mr Wey, the head of New York Global Group, a venture capital and private equity firm, coerced her into having sex with him in an apartment he rented for her and forced her to share a hotel room with him on business trips. She claimed that, after four sexual encounters, she turned down his advances, after which he fired her.

He then launched a vindictive online defamation campaign after coming across her boyfriend naked in bed, the court was told.

The jury heard that Mr Wey wrote emails to Ms Bouveng's family and friends and published rants on his personal website, which carries the slogan "Never be Boring".

The financier called his former employee a "party girl" and prostitute after describing how he found a man on her bed who was "naked, dirty, totally drunk and perhaps on illegal drugs".

He even turned up at a café in Stockholm where she had moved to escape the harassment.

As she left the Manhattan courthouse after the ruling, Ms Bouveng smiled broadly.

"I am so happy and so relieved," she said. "I went through a lot and endured over one year of abuse from him."

Mr Wey had attended the civil case proceedings but was not in court for the verdict. His lawyer, Glenn Colton, said his client would appeal and emphasised that the jury had dismissed claims of sexual assault against Mr Wey. "Lost in the headlines is the fact that the jury rejected completely Ms Bouveng's claims of forced sexual relations.

"The jury has spoken - the alleged forced events never happened. Of course, we are disappointed in other aspects of the verdict and plan to pursue post-trial remedies vigorously," Mr Colton said.

The case is the latest in a series of Wall Street sexual harassment cases. The reputation of the New York finance industry for macho-dominated excess was also highlighted on screen in the film 'The Wolf of Wall Street' starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Ms Bouveng had originally brought an $850m lawsuit.

Mr Wey denied having sex with Ms Bouveng, and said he fired her because her night-time partying was harming her work. Mr Wey is a Chinese-born US citizen who launched his financial career in the 1990s when he came to America to study. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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