New evidence of a culture of lewd behaviour at Lloyd’s of London emerged this week after an executive was suspended after sending a sexually suggestive email about a female colleague. And earlier in the week it was reported that two executives had recently resigned after a groping incident and the stalking of a junior employee.
In the first incident, as reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, insurance broker Guy Carpenter & Co took action after a male broker, a senior vice president, sent an email on Tuesday to several colleagues referring to bringing in birthday doughnuts and making a sexual reference to a female employee mentioned by name.
She responded: “This is absolutely unacceptable… There are limits to ‘jokes’ you can send at work copying in all colleagues – this is extremely rude and offensive. Please note that this will be forwarded to HR – HAPPY BIRTHDAY.”
A second employee was suspended for forwarding the message outside the firm.
A spokesman for Guy Carpenter said: “We take all incidents of harassment very seriously and will not tolerate any behaviour that breaches our code of conduct. Our first priority is our affected colleague, and we are offering all the support and counselling we can.” He added that further investigation was taking place.
Bloomsberg Businessweek has been highlighting incidences of sexual harassment and bad behaviour at Lloyd’s since March, when an article claimed the 330-year-old insurance market was the “most archaic corner left in global finance”.
This led Lloyd’s to vow it would tackle poor behaviour and put in place several sanctions to deal with offenders as well as create a harassment support line and provide extra training.
Earlier this week it emerged that two executives at one of the largest managing agents at Lloyd’s, Tokio Marine Kiln Group, had resigned after allegations.
One was said to have grabbed one female colleague’s buttocks and had tried to unbutton another’s shirt, while making lewd comments, at a party for the group’s employees. The other bombarded a woman who reported to him with text messages and emails asking her out on dates even after she said she wasn’t interested.
The incidents became public knowledge after TMK CEO Charles Franks called a “town hall meeting” in response to the Bloomsberg Businessweek article, where he condemned the widespread behaviour it revealed.
In-house commercial solicitor at TMK, Ifeanyi Okoh, was then contacted by past and present employees who detailed abuse they had witnessed at the firm. Okoh emailed Franks saying: “Sadly, this is part of a longstanding pattern in TMK, one further amplified by systemic intimidation, normalisation of harassment and inhibiting reporting.”
The executive accused of groping was given the option to resign after his behaviour was reported to HR. He denied culpability and argued that, because free alcohol was supplied at the party in question, the company itself was partly to blame for any poor behaviour. He received a £200,000 pay off, Bloomberg reported, and no longer works in the London insurance market.
Franks told Bloomberg News: “The types of behavior described do not in any way reflect the values of TMK.”
Women at Lloyd’s reported being leered and letched at and said they were routinely judged on their looks. One female employee told The Independent: “Every time women are described it is by their looks first. Wear that tight top to go and get a deal done.”
She added that everything was “deemed to be banter [and] innuendo that people laughed off”.
In March, Lloyd’s CEO John Neal called the reports of harassment “distressing”.
“No one should be subjected to this sort of behaviour, and if it does happen, everyone has the right to be heard and for those responsible to be held to account,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Lloyd’s said the company had had discussions with TMK and was “satisfied that they are taking these reports extremely seriously.” She said Lloyd’s had been “very clear on the standard of behaviors we expect and the actions we will take to ensure that our market, and all of those who work in it, operate to the highest standards.”
A TMK spokeswoman said the company had urged employees to come forward with any concerns. “They can speak, in confidence, to a member of senior management or an independent whistleblower helpline,” she said. “Workplace harassment will not be tolerated.”