Pimco, the US$1.8 trillion asset manager, strongly defended its workplace culture in response to a race and gender discrimination lawsuit from an in-house counsel.
The California-based firm said three of its five deputy general counsels are women, two of whom are mothers, in answer to a suit by Andrea Martin Inokon, who claims she was passed over for promotions and denied career opportunities after becoming pregnant.
Ms Inokon, who is African-American, claimed in a complaint filed on September 24 in a California superior court that Pimco operated as a "fraternity in a perversely literal sense".
In a November 12 response, Pimco said the firm "vigorously denies that it has engaged in any type of systematic or other discrimination against female employees, employees of colour, or mothers, with respect to compensation, performance evaluations, promotions, business opportunities or professional support".
Pimco also said the Newport Beach, California-based group "denies plaintiff's sensationalised and unfounded allegations of a fraternity culture within the firm, which have been manufactured for this lawsuit".
Ms Inokon, who has worked for Pimco for nine years and is still employed by the company, alleged she was passed over for several senior positions — including executive vice-president — "in favour of less-qualified males" because of her "race, gender and pregnancy".
The suit further alleges that as a result of her two pregnancies, Pimco "took away opportunities, reassigned projects to less-qualified males", subjected her to "unfair criticism" and attempted to induce her to "give up her career".
The Inokon lawsuit is unusual in the finance industry, which has tended to keep discrimination and harassment complaints out of the courts.
Pimco said in its filing that US-based senior vice-presidents, such as Ms Inokon, in legal and compliance were compensated fairly. For example, female senior vice-presidents "had higher average compensation than male SVPs, and the highest-paid SVP was a woman" in 2018, it said.
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Additionally, Ms Inokon's compensation "was around the middle of that group, a higher percentage of female SVPs received a one-time bonus than male SVPs, and the highest one-time bonus went to a female SVP", according to the filing.
Nancy Abrolat, the attorney representing Ms Inokon, told the Financial Times: "Pimco can make things look very differently but we need to cross examine that information. The way to accomplish that would be through the discovery process."
Pimco said two of its four managing directors, which are Pimco's most senior and highly compensated positions, in the legal and compliance department were women. "One of them is also a woman of colour and a mother," the filing said.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and Ms Inokon's appointment as an executive vice-president, as well as an audit of Pimco compensation practices to assess whether they comply with federal civil rights laws.
Written by: Jennifer Ablan
© Financial Times