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Pimco defends its culture in gender and race discrimination lawsuit

Pimco
Pimco headquarters in Newport Beach.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Pimco, the $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 Newport Beach-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 alleges she was passed over for promotions and denied career opportunities after becoming pregnant.

Inokon, who is African American, claimed in a complaint filed Sept. 24 in a California superior court that Pimco operated as a “fraternity in a perversely literal sense.”

In a Nov. 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 color, or mothers, with respect to compensation, performance evaluations, promotions, business opportunities or professional support.”

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Pimco also said it “denies plaintiff’s sensationalized and unfounded allegations of a fraternity culture within the firm, which have been manufactured for this lawsuit.”

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 favor 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.

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Pimco said in its filing that U.S.-based senior vice presidents, such as 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.

Additionally, 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 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, the most senior and highly compensated positions at Pimco, in the legal and compliance department were women. “One of them is also a woman of color and a mother,” the filing said.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and 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.

© The Financial Times Ltd. 2019. All Rights Reserved. FT and Financial Times are trademarks of the Financial Times Ltd. Not to be redistributed, copied or modified in any way.


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