Inequity in equities | Citigroup workers say HR inaction fueled 'persistent harassment and discrimination' in trading unit

Citigroup workers say HR inaction fueled 'persistent harassment and discrimination' in trading unit

Anonymous workers from Citigroup’s equities unit say complaints to senior executives and human resources about harassment didn't lead to change, with an investigation from Bloomberg identifying a culture of "persistent harassment and discrimination."

Bloomberg spoke to 22 people who have worked in, or alongside, Citigroup’s equities division.

Citigroup has responded to Bloomberg, stating that “efforts to foster an inclusive and equitable workplace culture never stop, and ensuring that our standards are well understood and complied with by everyone at Citi is a continuous, proactive process."

However, several incidents in the report make for bleak reading. Anonymous workers report multiple incidents of abuse and discrimination and claim that complaints to HR did nothing but further cement an in-crowd free from retribution. Per the report, this prompted “several employees to leave while some alleged perpetrators remain.”

One former participant in Citigroup’s two-year job rotation scheme, for example, says a trader on the team “told her to wear shorter skirts and higher heels to work and made multiple inquiries into her love life.”

Another female derivatives trader reports that a colleague groped her leg under a table whilst attending a client dinner, and an analyst asked her why she didn’t wear sexier shoes. The trader says she informed HR and senior managers about the incidents but was told by an executive to brush it aside – other colleagues also recall hearing about the conversation.

Mark Costiglio, a spokesperson for Citigroup says that whilst incidents such as the above would theoretically break the bank’s code of conduct, “we have not identified a complaint being filed for several of them, others are more than a decade old, and some contain allegations that are either baseless, too vague, or involve people who have left the firm.”

According to Bloomberg, Citigroup’s equities division has historically been the worst performer amongst Wall Street’s big five banks, with equities trading revenue lagging behind JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs.

In recent years, it has battled to improve financial performance whilst addressing its ‘old boys' club’ reputation. However, it continues to fall behind its competitors. JP Morgan, for example, now generates $5billion more than Citigroup. In 2019, the gap was around $3billion.

The report includes several other accounts of sexual harassment. It finds that many employees stayed silent due to fear of retaliation, but for those who did speak up to senior colleagues or human resources, any outcomes or actions were insufficient and disappointing.

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Costiglio says Citigroup offers employees "a number of avenues to raise concerns in confidence, and when substantiated we will take appropriate action, up to and including termination of employment.”

The bank has made changes amid the claims of discrimination and harassment. The leadership team for the equities division has been reworked five times over 12 years, and in March 2021, Citigroup was the first major U.S. bank to ever appoint a female CEO, Jane Fraser.

But whilst Fraser has overseen improvements to DE&I policy that have helped create a more equitable culture at Citigroup, its equities division continues to face allegations of sexual and gender-based discrimination.

In November 2023, Ardith Lindsey, a former Managing Director in the equities unit, sued  Citigroup, alleging she faced “horrifying sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and sexual assault during her tenure at the firm,” including being forced into an abusive relationship by another managing director.

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