So, sure, Fidelity has had to admit that it had some “peh-vets” working for it up in Boston, a few creeps in asset management have had to admit that they aren’t very woke at all, and SoFi turned out to be a bad sex party that did loans when it had free time, but it’s still pretty fair to say that Wall Street has remained veritably untouched by this #MeToo cultural revolution.
And while that has led to some scintillatingly ludicrous hot-takes, it has also pissed off many people who are acutely aware that the finance sector is really very good at keeping ugly shit out of the public eye. Those people have grown pretty impatient with Wall Street whistling quietly and staring at its shoes as Hollywood, sports, media and literally every other business sector is rocked with another revelation of sexual impropriety. And lest we forget, Wall Street has some rather vocal enemies that are eager to see it outed as a bad actor in this new sexual revolution.
United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) today sent letters to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), requesting information on the prevalence of sexual harassment within the financial sector.
The financial services industry employs over six million people. According to EEOC data, the “finance and insurance” sector generated the ninth-largest number of sexual harassment claims filed with the agency from 2005-2015. Last year, several high-level financial managers were forced to step down amid harassment allegations.
“The financial sector however has had fewer public revelations of sexual harassment than other industries,” wrote the senators. “The silence appears to result from strong ‘cultural and financial forces’ in the industry that discourage speaking out, including payout of large settlements with non-disclosure agreements to harassment victims, class-action prohibitions, and forced arbitration.”
While it’s hard not to applaud any attempt to make the workplace a safer place for women, it’s equally hard to ignore how ham-fisted this attempt is to uncover what Wall Street spends a lot of time and treasure to keep covered. Huge settlements, NDAs, class-action prohibitions and forced arbitration are a huge part of finance’s culture and the shockwaves that would emanate from those things being undermined would reverberate well beyond the firm trying to hide them and would likely create damage in things like the public pension funds that Warren and her colleagues care about so deeply.
This will not be as simple or as painless as taking down a Harvey Weinstein or a Roger Ailes. If Larry Fink or Steve Scharzman turn out to be a sex monster, it would be bad for a lot of people that don’t even work at a company named after a black piece of hard mineral matter. And while we would cravenly like nothing more than a bunch of whacky sex scandals to rock finance (clicks are clicks, you animals), it gives us a shiver of pause to consider what the reality of that would look like on a macro scale.
So we’ll say it again to Elizabeth Warren; Be careful what you wish for, because while you’re not wrong, you might not want to be right.