The headlines alone are dizzying. Since the New York Times reported allegations of serial predation by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein a year ago, at least 425 prominent people across industries have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct, a broad range of behavior that spans from serial rape to lewd comments and abuse of power.
That’s more than one newly reported person facing accusations each day, on average, for the last 12 months.
Hundreds of alleged bad actors—the vast majority men—were fired, resigned or faced other professional consequences. Some have apologized for specific actions or acknowledged vague, hypothetical offenses in more general ways. Others have held firmly to their jobs, their offices, their star power. Many have denied any wrongdoing or questioned the motives of their accusers.
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This tally of 429 people is a conservative accounting. The data, compiled by Bloomberg, are limited to publicly reported allegations of sex-related bad behavior in national, state and local media, trade publications and the public record. The data omit alleged instances of broader gender discrimination, non-sexual bullying and racial insensitivity, though the #MeToo movement has lowered tolerance for all kinds of crass and damaging behaviors.
A broader data set kept by crisis consultant Davia Temin puts the number of alleged bad actors at more than 800. “All of this matters because it shows the socialization and acceptance of reporting these kinds of instances,” said Temin, who has tasked two staff members with keeping track. “Numbers matter. They really do. I’m not going to stop.”
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People Accused of Sexual Misconduct in Media Coverage, by Industry
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… corporations have to answer to their shareholders, and public indiscretions can be costly. Companies experience significant wealth deterioration and reduced operating margins after executive bad behavior comes to light, according to the Journal of Financial Economics. A Stanford University study of CEO offenses related to bad sexual affairs, lying, and financial chicanery, found that news coverage of the misdeeds lasted an average of five years.
These are good reasons to prevent misbehavior before it happens—or to keep it quiet when it does. The finance industry, long a bastion of machismo, experienced far fewer public accusations of sexual misconduct. The most likely explanation, industry critics say, is that Wall Street is particularly skilled at keeping unhappy employees of any gender from airing grievances publicly.
“This system is not designed for there ever to be public disclosure,” said Cara Greene, a partner with law firm Outten & Golden, who has represented women in financial services in cases against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp., among others. “Women in finance are designed to be silenced.”
The incentives can be economic, cultural and legal. Financial firms often use non-disclosure clauses in employment agreements that discourage workers from talking publicly about what happens at work. Those agreements also require many disputes to be resolved in arbitration, which is private and more secretive than court. Firms can also pay generous settlements or award substantial severance, if that’s what it takes to silence allegations of abuse.
That doesn’t mean Wall Street men are untouchable. In the past year, accusations of egregious behavior on trading floors and inside investment banking offices have leaked out, though not about the industry’s most powerful people. Bloomberg has identified 25 people in finance prominent enough to warrant media coverage, 15 of whom publicly acknowledged or denied the accusations against them and were made to account for their behavior.
“That’s a very low estimate,” said Greene, adding that she’s personally aware of many cases of sexual harassment that never rose to public attention. “It’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these behaviors in the industry.”