AMP Limited (ASX: AMP)’s investigation into a sexual harassment case confirmed all allegations were credible, yet concluded most of them were not offensive or harassment.
AMP executive Boe Pahari faced accusations of harassing a subordinate in 2017 but was later promoted to the plum position of AMP Capital chief executive.
This situation publicly came to light in the last few weeks, with shareholders panning the board’s judgement and the company’s culture.
Under pressure from investors, AMP chair David Murray and director John Fraser resigned last Monday. Murray still defended Pahari’s promotion on the way out.
Pahari stepped down from the AMP Capital CEO role, but remains with the company.
The victim’s lawyer has now reportedly revealed the 2-page summary of the investigation into Pahari’s behaviour.
Nine on Monday morning reported the document confirms all 9 allegations made by the victim.
But somehow the UK QC who led the enquiry classified most of the elements to not be harassment or offensive conduct.
This included telling the female colleague to dance on a table, asking the age of men she dated and requesting she use an encrypted messaging app to communicate.
The Motley Fool has contacted the woman’s legal firm Maurice Blackburn and AMP for comment.
The QC did find 2 points to be harassment. These were Pahari extending the victim’s hotel booking in London and offering to buy clothes for wearing to dinner with him.
When she refused the clothes offer, Pahari allegedly said that would make him look like a “limp dick”. He also allegedly said he wished he had met her years earlier.
Those 2 points were deemed to be “moderate” and “minor” harassment.
AMP report never mentions the words “sexual harassment”
The woman’s lawyer Josh Bornstein told Nine it was “bizarre” that the summary never mentions the phrase “sexual harassment”.
When the victim earlier this month publicly released details of her allegations out of frustration, AMP claimed much of it was not confirmed in its investigations.
But the summary now revealed shows the QC thought her recollections were accurate.
The woman’s lawyers have fought to get the finance company to release the board’s communications with the UK QC who led the investigation.
After the Pahari controversy played out in public, another alleged harassment victim told of her harrowing AMP experience to a Labor senator.
Senator Deborah O’Neill last week used parliamentary privilege to quote the correspondence sent her from “a heroic young Australian”.
“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,” the victim wrote to O’Neill.
A matter of employee health and safety
One workplace equality academic has panned AMP’s handling of the Pahari scandal.
Australian Catholic University adjunct professor Lisa Heap said Australian corporate culture was too reactive on such matters.
“By all appearances, the [AMP] board’s approach in this case has been to treat sexual harassment as a risk to its share price, rather than a risk to the health and safety of its employees,” she wrote in The Conversation.
“Even in resigning Murray made it clear he backed how the board dealt with the complaint (docking Pahari a quarter of his A$2 million bonus in 2017).”
Heap said the reputational costs were “eclipsed” by Pahari’s “perceived value” to the company.
“Its reactive approach to sexual harassment is hardly unique… In fact, it’s a systemic feature of Australian corporate culture.”
AMP shares are trading at $1.51 on Monday morning, up 1.47%. The AMP share price was $5.25 as recently as March 2018.
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