Nathalie Abildgaard, 27, said she had to resign from the firm IFM Investments to avoid working with the 50-year-old executive director Frederic Michel-Verdier.
Nathalie Abildgaard, 27, said she had to resign from the firm IFM Investments to avoid working with the 50-year-old executive director Frederic Michel-Verdier.

Sexism in the City: Aussie firm under fire

The UK financial watchdog is to probe allegations of sexual harassment and bullying at a division of one of Australia's leading industry superannuation investment firms.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) tasked with regulating the UK's finance industry and markets has reportedly opened a file on IFM Investors, owned by Australia's major pension funds, amid allegations of a culture of bullying.

Former London-based employee Nathalie Abildgaard, 27, who is already suing IFM Investors and its European senior executive director Frederic Michel-Verdier over an incident last year in a Spanish nightclub, has claimed 19 out of 25 resignations in a six-month period in 2017 were women, 14 of those left as "regretted exits".

 

Nathalie Abildgaard, 27, said she had to resign from the firm IFM Investments to avoid working with the 50-year-old executive director Frederic Michel-Verdier.
Nathalie Abildgaard, 27, said she had to resign from the firm IFM Investments to avoid working with the 50-year-old executive director Frederic Michel-Verdier.

 

She claimed women being belittled and bullied by male staff was common at the Aussie-owned $117 billion fund management firm.

Her action before the Central London Employment Tribunal has already been branded as "rare" since most such claims in London's City financial hub were settled well before they reach court and only after complainants sign binding gagging orders in return for payouts.

FCA officers last week interviewed Ms Abildgaard to discuss her claims, first disclosed to the employment tribunal in January, and take documents related to what she claims were a "wider culture" at the firm that other women had referenced.

They declined to comment about cases.

 

 

Frederic Michel-Verdier  has denied the shocking allegations.  Picture: IFM Investors
Frederic Michel-Verdier has denied the shocking allegations. Picture: IFM Investors

 

Denmark-born Ms Abildgaard is suing the Australian firm for constructive and unfair dismissal and sexual harassment after her 50-year-old married boss Michel-Verdier allegedly told her "if I was 20 years younger I would have been all over you" as he suggested they return to his hotel room where "we could have some fun".

She left the conversation but he then texted her his room number.

She claimed he tried to dance with her during the 2018 incident at the Madrid nightclub Bling Bling, where the firm were celebrating closing a major European private equity deal, and he allegedly told her "you don't understand I am so much older then you.

You are young. I can teach you a lot about sex". She quit her job a month later.

Mr Michel-Verdier has denied the claims, declared he was "stunned" by the allegations but following an internal investigation he was banned from drinking alcohol at work events.

Other allegations related to sexism and two other women have since surfaced about him all of which he has denied.

IFM Investors Melbourne-based head office declined to comment about the FCA probe but last month its England office said it recognised workplace misconduct was serious.

"IFM Investors goes to great lengths to foster a positive, equal and respectful workplace culture and we work continuously to improve our organisation," it said