A senator has used parliamentary privilege to publicly expose more alleged systemic sexual harassment and bullying at AMP Limited (ASX: AMP).
A former employee had contacted Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill after seeing the recent controversy over the promotion of Boe Pahari to AMP Capital chief executive.
Pahari was promoted despite serious harassment accusations against him. That decision was steadfastly defended by AMP until this week when the chair, a director and Pahari stepped down after investor pressure.
Pahari remains employed at the finance firm.
Senator O’Neill said in parliament on Tuesday night that she was approached about another disturbing case, who AMP “tried to silence”.
“I want to put on the record the experience of a heroic young Australian, a young woman who deserves a medal for bravery and resilience.”
The woman, whose identity O’Neill did not disclose, was a junior staffer who alleges harassment from both peers and managers.
“The harassment I suffered ranged from receiving sexually explicit photos and emails expressing a desire to have sex with me, constant and public propositioning, including in front of some of the company’s largest clients, physical harassment, including being touched repeatedly by a leadership team member at the office, a senior colleague groping me off site and another forcing himself on me by rubbing his genitals against me at a work function,” O’Neill directly quoted the victim.
‘I was at his physical mercy’
The former AMP staffer accused her direct manager of threatening to end her finance career if she did not submit to his sexual wishes during a work trip.
“I felt in fear of my physical safety. I knew, as a woman does by a certain age, that I was at his physical mercy,” she said.
“My saving grace was that he was blind drunk and, as he went to pour himself another drink, I ran. I immediately called a friend. Distraught and terrified, I could not stop shaking.”
After complaints, the victim was then allegedly subjected to a system of silencing and a demotion of duties. She accuses the company of continuing to force her to work alongside her harassers and signing a non-disclosure agreement under duress.
An AMP spokesperson told The Motley Fool that the company was in contact with O’Neill’s office to get in touch with the ex-employee.
“The behaviour and conduct described in Senator O’Neill’s speech is distressing and unacceptable to AMP,” said the spokesperson.
“AMP takes any complaint or issue raised seriously, including from employees who have now left the organisation. This can be done anonymously through our whistleblowing service or through our People & Culture process.”
Life destroyed, even after exiting AMP
Senator O’Neill read the victim’s testimony that even on her last day at AMP humiliation and bullying allegedly followed.
“My former manager entered the elevator in which I was standing alone. He came up to me, stood inches away and then growled at me, bursting into laughter as he did,” the former staffer said.
“By the time the lift doors opened on the ground floor I was on the floor, sobbing.”
She had since spent tens of thousands dollars on psychological therapy and reskilling for a different career.
“My time at AMP changed me from an optimistic, ambitious professional to a shadow. It ended my career in finance and resulted in irrevocable long-term damage to me that I carry every day,” she said.
“I was thrown out of the industry and hung out to dry while the perpetrators not only remained but thrived. The cost was immeasurable to me and yet they were rewarded. The message was clear to victims: you will lose everything if you speak up.”
Australian Shareholders’ Association company monitor Ian Graves told The Motley Fool that AMP’s internal culture had much to repair.
“This revelation further emphasises our contention that changes to the culture and governance should be of the highest priority.”
AMP’s share price was down 0.34% at 11.39 am AEST Wednesday, to trade at $1.47. It was $5.43 in March 2018.