NEW YORK, March 27 (Reuters) - Lawyers for billionaire Steven A. Cohen said there is “no serious dispute” that a female executive’s claims alleging sexism at his hedge fund firm belong in arbitration, the same locale her law firm once preferred when defending former New York Senator Alfonse D’Amato in an unrelated contract case.
In a Tuesday filing in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Cohen and Point72 Asset Management LP urged a judge to reject Lauren Bonner’s “tortured reading” of her employment contract, which she said allows her to pursue her claims in court.
Point72 has denied Bonner’s allegations and defended its treatment of women. Cohen has not been accused of inappropriate behavior. He is worth $14 billion, Forbes magazine said.
Bonner, Point72’s head of talent analytics, is seeking damages for alleged “pervasive sexism” at the Stamford, Connecticut-based firm, which she called a “boys’ club” that pays men better and impedes women’s careers.
“Point72 cannot silence Lauren Bonner before her claims reach a jury,” her lawyers Jeanne Christensen and Michael Willemin said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “We look forward to vindicating Ms. Bonner’s rights publicly in courtrooms, not in the concealed sanctuary of arbitration.”
Bonner alleged that her employment contract’s arbitration clause did not cover her claims under the federal Equal Pay Act and state labor and human rights laws.
In Tuesday’s filing, Point72 contrasted Bonner’s strategy with that used by her law firm, Wigdor LLP, to defend D’Amato in a 2014 contract dispute with a former business partner. That case was later settled.
“Plaintiff and her counsel’s motive is clear: file a completely meritless public lawsuit against a former United States Senator in order to obtain press coverage, increase defendants’ costs in defending against the claim and extract a heavy settlement,” the firm said in a filing in the D’Amato case.
Lawyers routinely and can ethically argue opposite sides of an issue when representing different clients in different cases.
U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres is expected to decide where Bonner can pursue her case before the merits are considered.
The case is Bonner v Point72 Asset Management LP et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-01233. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York)