Update in the 18th paragraph includes an additional statement from Ernst & Young.
One of the more shocking details from the sexual harassment complaint against Ernst & Young is that even though the victim, Jessica Casucci, was a partner, other partners and senior officials in the firm either did nothing or took action to protect the firm and one of the alleged perpetrators, John Martinkat.
Although the futility of reporting incidents to human resources has been widely reported and commented upon, a public account like the complaint against EY just reinforces the suspicion that many have held that firms will go out of their way to bury serious complaints of sexual harassment.
The ordeal raises a bunch of troubling questions, but perhaps one of the more obvious ones is: If EY treats a partner this way, how are complaints from staff handled?
If you haven’t read the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against EY filed by Ms. Casucci, it’s on her lawyer’s website, and as we’ve stated before, the details are disturbing. And it’s not only the actions of Mr. Martinkat, but also the actions or lack of action by several other people mentioned, that create doubt about how these incidents are handled within EY.
For starters, there were two partners who witnessed Mr. Martinkat’s alleged assault of Ms. Casucci: Gerald Whelan and Jim Givens. By now you probably have read the details, but to summarize: Mr. Martinkat allegedly groped and sexually harassed Ms. Casucci including, “lifted her up over his shoulder and aggressively groped her breasts and rear end,” and telling her “I know you want to fuck me.” After the encounter, Martinkat continued the harassment with calls, texts, and emails asking her to come to his hotel room to have sex. The next day, Ms. Casucci confided to a nameless partner about the assault and harassment.
According to the complaint, “[N]either Mr. Whelan, Mr. Givens nor the partner in whom Ms. Casucci confided the following day ever reported Mr. Martinkat’s behavior to Human Resources.”
It has been reported, and EY spokesperson John La Place confirmed to Going Concern, that the firm terminated John Martinkat. Requests for comment to Messrs. Whelan and Givens were referred to Mr. La Place. Attempts to reach Mr. Martinkat were unsuccessful.
The complaint also details other alleged incidents suffered by Ms. Casucci, including a partner, Michael Serota, who “repeatedly asked Ms. Casucci if she was wearing underwear while rehearsing to speak at EY’s Executive Tax Update [ETU],” and Derek Schulze, a senior manager, who is alleged to have a bit of a reputation:
In response to questions about discipline for the two men, EY referred Going Concern to its statement from April 18 that “strong disciplinary actions will be taken against anyone we determine to have violated our policies and/or our Code of Conduct.”
According to the complaint, Ms. Casucci finally approached Karyn Twaronite, EY’s global diversity & inclusiveness officer:
Ms. Twaronite also told Ms. Casucci to “trust the Firm” to handle this appropriately. Despite those assurances, from August 2016 to late 2017, the firm appeared to have taken no action to address the alleged assault, according to the complaint. In a statement to Going Concern, EY said: “When the matter was reported to Karyn Twaronite in 2016, she listened with care to Jessica Casucci, and then escalated the matter to our then senior employment lawyer.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Casucci went to great lengths to avoid Mr. Martinkat, including turning down several assignments and changing to a different group within the tax practice. As the complaint states, she “had to completely reinvent her career and leave a substantial book of business to build a new one,” while Mr. Martinkat’s continued “unabated.”
In January 2018, Ms. Casucci notified Paul Stroud, EY’s Americas tax managing partner for financial services, of the incident. And in February 2018, Ms. Twaronite and EY’s Vice Chair of Talent, Carolyn Slaski, met with Ms. Casucci where she discussed the lengths she had to endure to avoid Mr. Martinkat:
Later, when Ms. Casucci stated that she had “follow ups” for Ms. Slaski, Ms. Twaronite said that if it is related to “how to navigate client assignments” that she wanted to involve Mr. Stroud. The complaint states that was “evidence of discriminatory and retaliatory animus.”
Finally, Ms. Casucci was referred to an EY attorney, Lisa Swanson, about the matter. According to the complaint, when the two women met, “It quickly became clear that Ms. Swanson had not been given all the facts,” most notably that she had “not been told about Mr. Martinkat’s sexual assault” and only knew of the lewd emails he sent after it occurred. Ms. Swanson rescheduled the meeting to get caught up, and that’s when the most shocking details are revealed:
In a statement provided to Going Concern on May 4, EY said, “We have been transparent in discussing this matter with our people and have learned from this experience. [Americas Managing Partner] Steve Howe and [Americas Managing Partner-elect] Kelly Grier conducted an EY-wide discussion where they shared what happened, where processes may have broken down, what we learned, and how we can get stronger.”
A week after her March 19 meeting with Ms. Swanson, Ms. Casucci retained counsel and the complaint with the EEOC was filed on April 18. Requests for comment to Ms. Twaronite, Ms. Swanson, Mr. Stroud, and Ms. Slaski were referred to La Place.
Ms. Casucci’s lawyer, Michael Willemin of Wigdor, declined to answer questions, but issued a statement: “Jessica Casucci and EY have reached a fair and equitable confidential settlement of this matter that involves Jessica leaving the Firm. We are pleased to have reached this resolution.” EY provided an identical statement to Going Concern.
The New York Post story about the settlement reports that, “The company has launched an internal investigation, and Twaronite’s actions are part of that probe, according to a person briefed on the investigation.” Going Concern has learned that the firm does not agree with this characterization, and that the investigation has been closed.
EY said further that in the discussion held by Mr. Howe and Ms. Grier, the firm “emphasized that our values, culture and Code of Conduct define the expectations we have of each other and the ethical framework on which we base our decisions. We are also focused on undertaking ongoing efforts to further strengthen our reporting and disciplinary processes.”
As mentioned at the top, the victim in this case was a partner who had spent 16 years of her career at EY. It’s hard to imagine how a person could be treated much worse, and this is someone who probably intended on spending the rest of her career at EY. In very short order, those plans were irreparably disrupted. It’s a cold reminder of how mega firms like EY will always put their interests first. Even over one of their partners.