U.S. judge cuts $18 million verdict for N.Y. financier's ex-employee

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2016 7:18 PM

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday reduced by more than two-thirds the maximum sum a Swedish woman can recover after having prevailed in a jury trial against a New York financier she accused of sexual harassment and defamation.

U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan said he would grant New York Global Group CEO Benjamin Wey a new damages trial unless his former employee, Hanna Bouveng, agreed by April 10 to have her damages award cut to $5.65 million from $18 million.

In a 111-page decision, Gardephe also upheld the jury's finding of liability in the lawsuit, which accused Wey of coercing Bouveng into having sex, refusing his further advances and defaming her in a series of blog posts.

"Based on the evidence at trial, a reasonable jury could conclude that Wey's sexual advances toward plaintiff were unwelcome, and that he knew they were unwelcome," Gardephe wrote.

Wey's lawyer had no immediate comment. A lawyer for Bouveng did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a Twitter post after the ruling, Wey declared "victory," reiterating his claims that the lawsuit amounted to "extortion."

Wey was separately indicted in September on federal securities fraud charges for engineering Chinese "reverse mergers" and then manipulating stock prices to earn tens of millions of dollars in illegal profits. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Bouveng trial garnered lurid tabloid headlines by pitting the young woman against a Wall Street financier about 20 years her senior.

At trial, lawyers for Bouveng contended that Wey had engaged in a relentless campaign of harassment after hiring her in 2013 when she was 24, buying her gifts and demanding sexual favors in return.

Bouveng's lawyers said Wey's actions led to sexual encounters before she rejected his further attempts, and that Wey fired her after discovering another man in her apartment, which he was helping to finance, in April 2014.

After she filed her civil lawsuit, Wey wrote several disparaging articles in an online publication, TheBlot, controlled by FNL Media, a New York Global Group subsidiary. Both companies were also defendants.

Wey's lawyer, Glenn Colton, contended at trial that his client and Bouveng never had sex, and that Bouveng attempted to extort Wey after she was fired for substandard work.

The case is Bouveng v. NYG Capital LLC et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 14-cv-5475.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York, editing by G Crosse)