PIMCO Faces Gender Discrimination Lawsuit, Again

The $1.84 trillion asset manager denied the allegations on Thursday.

Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

A lawyer at Pacific Investment Management Co. is suing the firm, alleging that it discriminated against her when it came to pay, promotions, and mentorship.

The lawsuit was filed by Andrea Martin Inokon, who serves as senior counsel at PIMCO, on September 23 in the Superior Court of California in Orange County. She is suing PIMCO, deputy general counsel Rick LeBrun, and global general counsel David Flattum.

Inokon, an African American woman, alleges she was passed over for promotions at the firm because she was pregnant. Her lawsuit claims that women at the firm who have children are “tagged” as choosing their families over work, and thus, do not want to advance or to be paid equally.

A spokesperson for PIMCO denied the allegations when reached via email on Thursday.

“The allegations in this filing, in relation to PIMCO’s employee policies generally and the specific circumstances of this employee, are not accurate, and PIMCO will demonstrate that she was treated and compensated fairly based on her role and performance,”Michael Reid, a spokesperson for PIMCO, said via email.

Inokon is suing the firm for violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, wrongful retaliation in violation of public policy, violation of the California Equal Pay Act, and false promise/intentional misrepresentation, the complaint said. She is seeking punitive damages, the lawsuit said.

Inokon’s complaint said that PIMCO allegedly operates as a “fraternity in a perversely literal sense,” as the firm’s senior officers allegedly encouraged employees to drink and socialize at strip clubs, golf outings, and poker nights.

The complaint alleged that white men are “disproportionately over-represented at every level” of the firm’s management and leadership structure. This leadership allegedly “interferes with, limits or prevents” women from receiving appropriate credit for their work, the complaint said.

“It was a big decision for Andrea to come forward,” her attorney, Nancy Abrolat of Abrolat Law, said by phone. “She was probably emboldened by the #metoo movement. She views it as larger than herself. Finance is one of the few remaining male enclaves.”

She said that Inokon is seeking to compel PIMCO to release its compensation records, which would reveal whether they had paid her – and other folks on staff – fairly.

In Inokon’s specific case, after allegedly having been passed over for promotions, she spoke with LeBrun about working remotely from Raleigh, North Carolina, to care for her mother, who was physically recovering from a murder attempt, the suit said. According to Inokon, LeBrun approved the request with the stipulation that Inokon report into the New York office a couple of times a week. He allegedly said that he would share the details of the arrangement with Flattum, who would defer to him on the matter.

According to the suit, Inokon had begun to prepare to move to Raleigh when LeBrun allegedly told her that she would not be able to work remotely after all. Inokon claims that LeBrun told her she would be terminated if she did not agree to work four days of the week in New York.

Around this time, according to Inokon, she learned she was pregnant. She allegedly told LeBrun that given her pregnancy, she likely wouldn’t be able to travel to New York.

Inokon remains at the firm and did not respond to a LinkedIn message seeking comment.

[II Deep Dive: PIMCO Exec Steps Down Amid Harassment Reports]

These are not the first allegations of sexism and discrimination at PIMCO to surface.

In 2018, PIMCO was sued by Stacy Schaus, an executive vice president in the firm’s defined contribution practice, who alleged that the firm passed over her when it came to promotions in favor of a less qualified and younger male colleague. She also alleged that the firm paid her less than her male colleagues.

Schaus eventually asked the court to dismiss her case, the docket shows. This coincided with her leaving the firm, per her LinkedIn profile. She now runs Schaus Group, a defined contribution consulting firm.

In the same year, PIMCO’s head of portfolio risk management Bill De Leon resigned after allegedly inappropriately touching a lower-ranking colleague at an event.