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Sexual-Harassment Whistle-Blower Sues Lloyd’s of London Insurer

Gavin Finch

(Bloomberg) -- A senior lawyer who blew the whistle on alleged sexual harassment and bullying at a top Lloyd’s of London insurance company is suing his employer for what he called a campaign of harassment, racial discrimination and victimization.

Ifeanyi Okoh said in a complaint filed last month with a London employment tribunal that executives at Tokio Marine Kiln Group Ltd. attempted to undermine his credibility by characterizing him as mentally unstable and motivated by financial gain after he sent senior managers an email in April criticizing what he called a culture of fear and harassment at the firm. Bloomberg News reported in June on Okoh’s memo, which included allegations that a top executive groped several colleagues at a booze-fueled party earlier this year.

Okoh sent his email to TMK Chief Executive Officer Charles Franks and others after several current and former employees approached him to complain about abuse they had endured or witnessed at the firm, including unwanted sexual touching and stalking. That followed a Bloomberg Businessweek article published in March which detailed endemic sexual misconduct in the 331-year-old Lloyd’s of London insurance market. TMK is the Lloyd’s of London underwriting arm of Tokio Marine Holdings Inc., Japan’s oldest insurance company.

“I have been contacted by several TMK employees and ex-employees who recounted some of the most appalling and shocking details of bullying, intimidation, harassment, victimization, unwanted attention, sexual harassment and racial abuse,” Okoh wrote in his April 1 email, seen by Bloomberg News. “Sadly, this is part of a longstanding pattern in TMK, one further amplified by systemic intimidation, normalization of harassment and inhibiting reporting.”

A TMK spokeswoman said the company couldn’t comment on the specifics of Okoh’s harassment complaint. “We have a clear whistle-blowing policy in place and are committed to a working environment where all employees feel safe to speak up, without any retribution,” the spokeswoman said. “We do not tolerate the victimization of any whistle-blower, and are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion at every level of the business. We acted promptly on the original allegations made by the whistle-blower, and a thorough and independent investigation into these is well underway.”

The spokeswoman also said TMK has taken a number of steps to ensure a “safe, empowering and respectful workplace.” A spokeswoman for Lloyd’s said the insurer is satisfied that TMK is taking the reports of abuse “extremely seriously.”

‘Extreme Stress’

A week after sending the email, Okoh was called into a meeting with a more senior manager. The executive, whom Okoh had labeled a bully in his email to the CEO, berated him for his “crap” work, even though he had received a glowing appraisal weeks earlier, according to the complaint. Okoh said in the filing that the manager became so agitated and adversarial that he asked if a colleague could join them. At that point the manager allegedly ended the meeting, telling him “this relationship is not going to work.”

That evening, Okoh “suffered an extreme stress reaction,” and he hasn’t returned to work since, according to the filing. Okoh declined to comment.

While convalescing, Okoh was told by Nigel Clemson, TMK’s head of human resources, that the manager had brought a grievance against him for his behavior during the meeting, according to the complaint. Days later, Okoh said in the filing, his access to his work emails was cut off without warning, and TMK blocked his personal email address from sending messages to the work server. Around that time, Clemson asked the company’s information security manager for access to Okoh’s work emails “for monitoring purposes following suggestions of inappropriate behavior,” the filing said.

Seek Help

On April 24, according to the complaint, Franks, the CEO, sent an email to Clemson suggesting he get advice from the firm’s outside lawyers on how to handle Okoh and “protect the various employees he is either naming or implicating in his allegations.”

Two days later, Clemson sent a text message to another executive detailing the law firm’s advice, which included expressing concern to Okoh about his mental health and urging him to “seek urgent medical help,” according to the complaint. After the executive pushed back, saying it wasn’t their job to assess Okoh’s mental health, the filing said, Clemson responded: “Their logic is it shows us as caring and that it flags his questionable state of mind.”

Clemson and Franks, who is named as a defendant in the suit, didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

A few weeks later, according to the filing, Okoh heard from a third party that a senior official at the insurer had told the person that the whistle-blower was mentally unsound. The official also allegedly said Okoh was motivated by financial gain and was probably only doing so “because the claimant is ‘black.’”

The unidentified third party reported those comments to the U.K.’s Prudential Regulatory Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority, the complaint said. Spokesmen for the FCA and the PRA declined to comment. A lawyer for the senior official denied the allegations.

Okoh is seeking unspecified damages and a statement from the company that he has been subjected to unlawful treatment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gavin Finch in London at gfinch@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Katz at akatz5@bloomberg.net, Robert Friedman

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