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Stifel Client Associate Sues Over Alleged Sexual Assault, Harassment

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A registered client services associate at Stifel’s Garden City, New York, office has sued the brokerage firm over the way it treated her recent allegations that a senior investment manager “subjected” her to “egregious sexual assault and harassment.”

Patricia Olivieri alleged that — over two years — senior investment manager Neil Isler had, among other things, placed “the palm of his hand on her buttocks without her consent,” according to a complaint filed earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip.

In addition, Isler allegedly spoke to her on multiple occasions about rape, including telling Olivieri that his friend had drugged and raped a woman he knew, according to the complaint.

Isler also allegedly told Olivieri, who began work at the firm in 2018, that he regularly cheated on his wife and had sex with his mistress in his car, among other even more graphic discussions; he also viewed pornography in his office while ensuring Olivieri saw it as well, she said.

According to the complaint’s allegations, Olivieri complained about Isler’s conduct to Stifel management. However, the firm “refused to take the matter seriously, failed to conduct a legitimate investigation and took measures only to protect Mr. Isler — a revenue producer — and shield the Company from potential exposure in litigation,” she alleged.

“Stifel believes the situation has been handled appropriately,” a company spokesperson told ThinkAdvisor on Friday. “Stifel intends to defend this case vigorously and is confident that, when the facts are put forth, it will become clear that Ms. Olivieri was treated fairly and appropriately.  Stifel does not comment on the details of ongoing litigation, but has taken Ms. Olivieri’s allegations very seriously and investigated her claims immediately, utilizing internal and external resources.”

For example, the spokesperson explained: “Even before completing the investigation, Stifel proposed a number of options to Ms. Olivieri, all of which were focused entirely on making her comfortable at work. Although her claims could not be corroborated, Ms. Olivieri was transferred to the position of her choice where she would not have contact with Mr. Isler. She has similar responsibilities and compensation. Stifel holds its employees to the highest standards of integrity and accountability and does not tolerate discrimination or harassment. ”

Isler did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The brokerage firm, but not Isler, is named as a defendant in the suit.

However, David E. Gottlieb, a partner at New York law firm Wigdor, who is representing Olivieri, told ThinkAdvisor Friday: “The company is liable for his conduct so there’s no necessity to name him. That said, we may include him as a named defendant in an amended complaint.” In addition, he said “the alleged conduct at issue occurred between June 2018 to the present.”

Isler has been with Stifel since 2007, according to his report on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck website. There are no regulatory disclosures on his report for his 20 years in the industry.

More Details

In response to Olivieri’s complaints, Stifel allegedly “allowed Mr. Isler to continue to work from Stifel’s offices … during the investigation process, despite being accused of egregious sexual harassment,” according to the complaint.

During the investigation process, a Stifel human resources employee allegedly admitted to Olivieri that certain allegations of hers were “substantiated,” but “Isler was never disciplined in any way as he continued to work from the office and still does to this day,” the complaint states.

Stifel also “made it clear that it pre-determined the overall outcome of the investigation in favor of Mr. Isler,” the complaint alleges.

In communications between Olivieri and the human resources employee concerning her returning to work from administrative leave, that staffer dismissed her safety concerns working in proximity to Isler, stating “it did not create any safety issue, despite the fact that he said the investigation was ongoing and had not yet been concluded,” according to the complaint.

The human resources employee also allegedly “refused to convey to Ms. Olivieri the results of the investigation in a manner where she feels comfortable,” saying he “would only convey the response in-person verbally, even though Ms. Olivieri said that created extreme anxiety for her and asked that the results be emailed to her,” according to the complaint.

“Stifel is more interested in protecting its bottom line than victims of discrimination, sexual assault, sexual harassment and retaliation,” the complaint further alleged.

“Stifel’s willingness to stand by Mr. Isler after he sexually assaulted and harassed Ms. Olivieri is reprehensible and has forced Ms. Olivieri to continue to work in an environment where she feels unsafe and fears that Mr. Isler may assault her again,” the complaint alleges.

Olivieri is seeking injunctive, declaratory and monetary relief against Stifel for violations of the New York State Human Rights Law.

She also plans to file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging unlawful discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the complaint said.

 

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