Fidelity declined to comment on specific employees, but spokesman Vincent Loporchio said in a statement that its policies “prohibit harassment in any form. When allegations of these sorts are brought to our attention, we investigate them immediately and take prompt and appropriate action. We simply will not, and do not, tolerate this type of behavior.” Fidelity has also hired an outside consultant to review employee behavior in its stock-picking unit, according to one of the people familiar with the allegations.
Chow was accused of making inappropriate sexual comments to colleagues and Baker allegedly harassed a 26-year-old employee. Both worked in the company’s powerful stock-picking division. An unnamed spokesman for Baker told the Wall Street Journal that he “strenuously” denies the allegations.
The allegations come amid heightened sensitivity to sexual harassment complaints in corporate America. Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was recently fired as the head of his company after reports emerged that he had harassed dozens of women over decades. And on Friday, the New York Times reported that former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly secretly settled a sexual harassment allegation with a network contributor for $32 million.
Wall Street, meanwhile, has long fought its reputation as a place where women and minorities struggle to succeed. None of the country’s leading publicly-traded banks — JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup or Bank of America — have ever been led by a woman. Last year, Bank of America was accused of running a “bros club” that underpaid female executives. Women account for just 2 percent of financial industry chief executives, according to research by Catalyst, a nonprofit group. They hold about 29 percent of executive or senior-level positions in the industry.
Fidelity operates in the asset management world where such concerns have also lingered. Women and minorities are locked out of some of sector’s most lucrative positions, managing just 1.1 percent of the $71.4 trillion of the industry’s assets, according to a study commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Bella Research Group earlier this year.
Fidelity is somewhat unusual in the financial world. It is led by a woman, Abigail P. Johnson, who has been chairman and chief executive since 2014. Johnson’s grandfather started the firm, and she owns a significant share of the privately-held company, according to Forbes, which estimates her net worth at more than $17 billion.
Johnson is considered one of the most powerful women in finance from her perch at Fidelity, which has more than $6 trillion in assets, including the retirement accounts of millions of Americans. It also has several women in senior leadership positions, including Kathleen Murphy, the president of personal investing, which controls more than $2 trillion in customer assets.
The company held an emergency meeting last week in the wake of dismissals of the two executives, according to a personal familiar with the allegations. Brian Hogan, president of Fidelity’s stock-picking division, stressed the company’s intolerance of inappropriate workplace conduct during that meeting, the person said.
“Fidelity remains committed to providing all associates with an outstanding work environment and we will always work hard to ensure that we take swift and appropriate action when an individual violates our policies, and more importantly, our values,” the company’s statement said.