Investment banker sues Jefferies, alleges pregnancy bias

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 18, 2016 12:55 PM

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jefferies Group LLC was sued by a former female investment banker who accused it of stripping away her bonus and derailing her career because she became pregnant.

In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday night in federal court in Manhattan, former Senior Vice President Shabari Nayak said Jefferies harbors "deep institutional biases" against women, reflected when two top bankers told her that her "priorities" needed to change after she had become pregnant with her first child.

Nayak said Jefferies' actions, including letting her internal complaints fall on "deaf ears," forced her to resign in March while on maternity leave.

She said that ended her 11-1/2-year investment banking stint, and left her industrial sector group with 32 men and no women as senior vice presidents or managing directors.

Nayak "delayed announcing her pregnancy as late as possible because she feared her career would be derailed," her lawyer, Scott Grubin, said in a statement. "We are determined to hold Jefferies accountable for its discriminatory conduct."

A spokesman for Jefferies had no immediate comment on Thursday. The New York-based company is a unit of Leucadia National Corp.

Many investment banks have been accused over the years of gender bias, including by denying bonuses or career opportunities to women because they become pregnant.

Nayak said she had been on track to become a managing director in 2016 before she told co-defendants Peter Scott, head of industrials investment banking in the Americas, and Christopher Kanoff, global co-head of investment banking, of her pregnancy last August.

She said Scott offered to help her find a "less demanding" role, perhaps in human resources, and that he and Kanoff denied her a 2015 bonus though she brought in 45 percent more revenue than in 2014, when she received a six-figure bonus.

In contrast, she said a male colleague in her group who performed similar work received a "substantial" bonus for 2015.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The case is Nayak v. Jefferies Group LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-06528.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)