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Former Fund Manager Files Sexual Harassment Suit Against TCW

Sara Tirschwell has sued the asset manager, its chief executive officer and her boss over sexual harassment claims.

  • By Alicia McElhaney

A female fund manager who worked for TCW Group has filed a lawsuit against the asset manager, alleging that she was fired after her boss sexually harassed her and coerced her into having sex with him.

Sara Tirschwell, who previously headed the distressed strategy group at TCW, has sued the firm, its chief executive officer, David Lippman, and her boss Jess Ravich, the firm’s head of alternative products, according to a document filed January 25 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Tirschwell is seeking to recover at least $30 million in compensatory damages, the document shows. 

“Tirschwell was dismissed for cause due to repeated, documented violations of firm policy, and had made no complaint of any kind before it was clear she was being dismissed,” Doug Morris, a spokesperson for TCW, said in an emailed statement. “TCW is proud of its inclusive culture and has a zero tolerance policy for any form of predatory behavior.”

Tirschwell alleged in the court document that Ravich would wear a white terry bathrobe to “breakfast meetings” that he set up to discuss business,  and made unwanted sexual advances. When she stopped the breakfast meetings, Tirschwell was allegedly deprived resources needed for her job, including marketing support. She was fired nine days after complaining to human resources in December.

“We are committed to taking appropriate action in any case where harassment claims are made, and in this matter TCW promptly engaged an independent investigative firm to examine the allegations and determine the facts,” the TCW spokesperson said in the emailed statement, adding that Tirschwell declined to participate in the investigation. 

“We think it’s important in light of TCW’s statement to say that there was no investigation before Sara was fired,” Tirschwell’s lawyer, Steven Storch of Storch Amini PC, said by phone. “She was never asked to participate in any investigation before she was fired. She got fired and TCW promoted Mr. Ravitz to the board.”

Tirschwell had a consensual relationship with Ravich in 2012, according to the complaint. Ravich told Tirschwell that he had disclosed their prior romantic relationship to Lippman, the firm’s CEO. Lippman replied that Ravich should “keep [his] hands off of her,” and that he did not want any “funny business,” accoring to the complaint.

Some investors have started to consider how they might address cases of sexual harassment at firms that manage their money. OrbiMed Advisors said in December that its founder Samuel Isaly would retire a result of years-long succession planning, a move announced just days after health-care news site Stat reported sexual harassment claims against Isaly. One chief investment officer of a U.S. endowment wrote to Institutional Investor saying that he planned to connect with other limited partners to discuss their views on the situation.

[II Deep Dive: Sam Isaly Remains at OrbiMed as Investors Consider Options

Recent clients of TCW include the State Universities Retirement System of Illinois, the Pasadena Fire & Police Retirement System, the San Mateo County Employee Retirement Association and the Teachers Retirement System of the State of Illinois, according to the pension plans’ documents.

Pasadena Fire & Police Retirement System was recently an investor in TCW’s fixed income portfolio, according to records from early 2017 show. A spokesperson for the pension fund didn’t return a phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit and whether it’s still a client of TCW. 

A spokesperson for the Teachers Retirement System of the State of Illinois, which an investor in TCW funds as recently as 2013, declined comment on the lawsuit or whether they’re still a client of the firm. The most recent record of the pension fund’s investment with TCW was from 2013, when the pension plan had assets in the firm’s global fixed income emerging markets fund.

A spokesperson for the State Universities Retirement System of Illinois, which in 2014 was an investor in TCW’s fixed-income funds, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit. San Mateo County Employee Retirement Association, which in 2015 was invested in a TCW alternative asset fund, was closed on Friday and could not be immediately reached for comment.


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