Last summer, a 25 year old Swedish intern, Hanna Bouveng, was awarded $16 million for punitive damages and $2 million in compensatory damages, after filing a sexual harassment and defamation lawsuit against her boss Benjamin Wey, the head of New York Global Group–a billion dollar private equity firm on Wall Street.
Bouveng alleges that Wey (who was married with children at the time) told her he wanted a girlfriend to travel the world with since it was “lonely at the top.” He then insisted on buying Bouveng scarves, jewelry and other things. Bouveng resisted his advances at first, but then started to feel guilty about offending him. Bouveng alleges that Wey continuously made comments about the way she looked, even in front of associates. During a business trip, Wey booked one hotel room for both him and Bouveng at which time he tried to get her to have sex with him. Though she turned down his proposition, he continued to shower Bouveng with gifts, including a $3300 a month Manhattan apartment.
Bouveng continued to resist his physical advances, though she worried that by doing so, she would jeopardize her job. She was afraid that Wey would use his connections in business and politics to ruin her career and reputation. After an end of the year dinner some months later, Bouveng finally gave in to Wey’s pressure and slept with her boss. Wey’s controlling behavior escalated. He monitored her whereabouts, showed up at her door uninvited, belittled Bouveng saying that her friends didn’t care about her, and even threatened her job. Wey then gave Bouveng an ultimatum, either they enter an intimate relationship together or he would fire her and take away her apartment.
When Wey discovered that Bouveng had a boyfriend, he told her to move out immediately, and that he would revoke her visa. He then began emailing her family, friends, and business contacts, spreading lies and rumors about the events that had unfolded. Bouveng moved back to Sweden and promptly filed a sexual harassment lawsuit. Wey then started harassing Bouveng via the internet, tagging her family in stock images of porn and drug use, accusing her of blackmail, calling her names such as “street walker”, and launching 11 websites that bullied Bouveng and her family.
Though the jury awarded Bouveng $18 million for sexual harassment, retaliation and defamation, Wey appealed the ruling.
Recently, Judge Paul Gardephe, issued a 111-page “take it or leave it” ruling which reduced the total payout to $4 million in punitive damages and $1.65 million in compensatory damages. Gardephe claims that one of the reasonings for his ruling, was that the ratio between the two sums were lopsided.
Bouveng decided to take the reduced verdict.
To make things worse for Wey, he was recently indicted on alleged stock manipulation charges.
What do you think of these extreme harassment and retaliation allegations?