Senators want SEC, Finra to crack down on Wall Street's harassment policies

Elizabeth Warren leads call amid #MeToo movement

Mar 1, 2018 @ 1:23 pm

By Bloomberg News

Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants regulators to make sure Wall Street doesn't dodge the #MeToo movement.

Ms. Warren, the finance industry's leading critic in Congress, asked the Securities and Exchange Commission what it's done to ensure banks have established policies and disciplinary systems to prevent sexual harassment. The Massachusetts Democrat and two other senators also asked the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc., which oversees broker-dealers, for data on the prevalence of abuse in the industry.

Wall Street firms have come under increased scrutiny for how they handle sexual harassment as high-profile allegations of misconduct rattle Hollywood, politics and the media. Because of agreements many employees sign with financial firms, victims often settle privately and the complaints may never become public.

"The world of finance is not immune from this harassment," said the letters, which were co-signed by Sens. Warren, Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein. "The silence appears to result from strong 'cultural and financial forces' in the industry that discourage speaking out, including the payout of large settlements with nondisclosure agreements to harassment victims, class-action prohibitions, and forced arbitration."

For Finra, the lawmakers want to know how many sexual harassment claims have been dealt with through the regulator's arbitration system since 2010. They also want to know what kind of data the agency has on Wall Street terminations tied to harassment. The senators asked that the SEC and Finra respond to their requests by March 14.

Finra has been in touch with Ms. Warren's staff regarding the senators' request and looks forward to working with them on the issue, a Finra spokesman said. An SEC spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

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