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Aberdeen Faces Age-Bias Claim From Current PM

Ignites.com-Financial Times—Emile Hallez

A senior portfolio manager at Aberdeen is suing the firm for denying him a promotion, allegedly because of his age.

The plaintiff, Neil Moriarty, is seeking back pay with interest, compensatory damages and other awards. His claims are based on alleged violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

In 2014, Aberdeen promoted then-portfolio manager Charles Tan to succeed Chris Gagnier as head of North American fixed income. Moriarty contends that he was substantially more experienced and qualified for the position than Tan, who is younger, according to a complaint filed in late December in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Moriarty was 50 at the time Tan was promoted. The complaint does not identify Tan’s age at the time, though a LinkedIn profile states that Tan began attending college in 1986, meaning that Tan could be as little as four years younger than Moriarty.

Aberdeen selected Tan without posting the position internally or publicizing externally, according to the complaint.

“Mr. Moriarty was bypassed for the position even though, undisputedly, he was far more experienced and qualified for it than Mr. Tan,” the complaint states.

Moriarty has worked at Aberdeen since 2005 and previously held positions at Deutsche Asset Management, Chase Securities and Prudential, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“Whereas Mr. Moriarty had significant international experience working for Aberdeen, Mr. Tan had virtually none,” the plaintiff states in the complaint. “Moreover, while Mr. Moriarty regularly served as the relationship manager for a number of Aberdeen clients … Mr. Tan had never served in that capacity, had never represented a single client or consultant of Aberdeen and had never won or defended any piece of business for Aberdeen.”

When Moriarty questioned executives about why he was not chosen for the position, he was asked about his age and was told that he “looked older than he was” and “we didn’t know how long you wanted to do this,” according to the complaint.

Moriarty later filed a complaint with Aberdeen’s human resources department, after which he allegedly faced retaliation, such as being excluded from important meetings and being restricted from visiting certain clients, the lawsuit states.

Aberdeen declined to comment on the lawsuit, though a spokeswoman confirmed that Moriarty remains as head of U.S. core bond strategy and that he is a portfolio manager on the $14.3 million Global Fixed Income Fund and the $8 million Ultra-Short Duration Bond Fund.

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The complaint also points to alleged retaliatory remarks made to Moriarty after he filed his complaint with human resources. One executive reportedly told him he was disliked by Aberdeen’s management board and his own colleagues and that he was not a cultural fit at the firm.

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Despite what appears to be a relatively small difference in age between Moriarty and Tan, the alleged comment about the plaintiff appearing older than his actual age could help make a case for age discrimination, says Darnley Stewart, of counsel at Outten & Golden.

“I would call that almost a smoking-gun comment,” Stewart says. “It’s a very strong claim, based on the remarks that were made.”

Age discrimination becomes more common “once someone reaches an age with a five in front of it,” she says.

While it is normal for firms to avoid publicizing high-level openings, the lack of a job posting is also a common theme in age and gender discrimination cases, Stewart says.

“At very senior levels, companies almost never post, because they want discretion. But that’s how we end up with older people being disadvantaged,” she says. “One of the measures we insist on in settling those claims is adequate job posting…. Giving everyone a chance to apply is preferable to secrecy and a tap on the shoulder."                                       

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