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Point72 president quits amid lawsuit by employee

New York

A TOP executive at the investment firm led by billionaire investor Steven Cohen has stepped down a month after a female employee sued the company over accusations that it underpaid female employees and fostered a hostile work environment.

Douglas Haynes resigned as president of the firm, Point72 Asset Management, last Friday, according to five people briefed on the matter but not authorised to speak publicly because the suit is continuing. Mr Haynes, a former executive at McKinsey & Co who joined Point72 in 2014, is named as a defendant in the suit.

The firm confirmed his departure to employees in a letter on Friday. In the letter, Mr Cohen thanked Mr Haynes for his work at Point72.

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The letter, a copy of which was seen by two of the sources who spoke to The New York Times, did not address the lawsuit or the allegations in it. The two sources said that Mr Haynes' departure was not related to the litigation.

Mr Haynes could not immediately be reached for comment on Saturday.

In the suit, which was filed last month in US District Court in Manhattan, Lauren Bonner, an associate director at the firm, said that Mr Haynes had belittled female employees - calling one a "dumb blonde" - and had a whiteboard in his office on which the word "pussy" was written in large letters and left there for several weeks last year.

Point72, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut, said in a statement after the suit was filed that it "emphatically denies these allegations".

In court, lawyers for Mr Cohen and Point72 have sought to move the matter to arbitration. Early on Saturday, Ellen Davis, a Point72 spokeswoman, said: "The firm's view remains that the lawsuit is without merit." Ms Davis said in a subsequent statement: "Steve Cohen wants to make sure that his firm is living up to its stated values and fostering a respectful workplace."

As part of that effort, she said, Mr Cohen had retained the prominent law firm WilmerHale "to conduct an independent assessment and provide legal advice that will help to improve the firm's policies and procedures, strengthen its culture and foster best practices".

Leading the review, the sources familiar with the matter said, is Jamie Gorelick, a Wilmer partner who is a former deputy US attorney general. Several women at Point72 had been interviewed by lawyers as part of the review, the sources said.

When it was filed, Ms Bonner's suit threatened to complicate Mr Cohen's efforts to convert his US$11 billion firm from an entity that manages only his family's money into a hedge fund that would also manage US$2-4 billion from outside investors. The suit was also among the most prominent to accuse a major Wall Street firm of workplace misconduct amid a national reckoning on sexual harassment.

Mr Haynes was one of the first people whom Mr Cohen hired after shutting down his former hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, after it pleaded guilty to insider trading charges and paid US$1.8 billion in fines and penalties in 2014. NYTIMES