Morning Coffee: Banker claims male colleagues complained over breast-pumping

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A former vice president at Morgan Stanley has filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission after she said she was fired just three weeks following her return from maternity leave without being given an explanation. Chau Pham has asked the commission to investigate the bank’s treatment of women while also calling on Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman to release her from binding arbitration, which would enable her to sue the firm in open court.

After returning from leave, Pham claims that the breaks she took to pump breast milk became a topic of conversation among her male co-workers, and that a manager asked her on numerous occasions, “what’s wrong with formula?” according to a 24-page complaint seen by Bloomberg. Pham, who worked on Morgan Stanley’s foreign exchange sales desk, also alleges that some of her client accounts were permanently taken over by colleagues at the direction of management while she was on leave.

Pham claims that her manager and a human resources representative declined to provide her a reason for her termination, which occurred one day before she was set to start a new schedule that would allow her to take her child to daycare in the morning, according to the complaint. Pham also alleges that some of her clients were later told she was laid off as part of a broader redundancy plan but, to her knowledge, she was the only one let go.

In her letter to Gorman, Pham asked him to “do the right thing” by releasing her from mandatory arbitration – a staple of many employee contracts that has come under fire recently. Google recently made several changes to its sexual harassment policies, including making arbitration optional, after thousands of employees walked out of its offices to protest the way the company handled misconduct accusations. Critics argue that binding arbitration enables big companies to keep potentially damaging claims from going public. Facebook and Uber followed in Google’s footsteps by making arbitration optional; no big U.S. bank has done the same, according to Bloomberg.

In a statement sent to the New York Business Journal, Morgan Stanley said that “it does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is committed to a workplace that is supportive of working mothers.” The bank also said the policies and procedures that underpin that support were followed in Pham’s case. Goldman Sachs increased its support for breastfeeding mothers last year by offering to pay for a service that will courier their expressed milk back to their babies while they're travelling.

Meanwhile:

A partner at Crispin Odey’s hedge fund is leaving the firm to get back into the family business: making sandwiches. Orlando Montagu is a direct descendant of the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who apparently was a real person in the 18th century that invented putting meat between two pieces of bread. Montagu is set to join his family-owned restaurant chain, rightly dubbed Earl of Sandwich. (Bloomberg)

Boutique investment bank Houlihan Lokey continues adding dealmakers in Europe. The U.S. firm just poached two senior bankers; one from HSBC and another from Citigroup. Houlihan Lokey has quickly increased its European headcount to 220 as it seeks to better compete in the region. (Financial News)

Surveyor Capital, an equities arm of hedge fund giant Citadel, has reportedly let go of a stock-picking team led by long-short portfolio manager Adam Wolfman. The move reportedly occurred in December. Citadel isn't cutting back in equities, however. Surveyor added 50 investment professionals in 2018. (Business Insider)

Societe Generale is considering shuttering its proprietary trading unit following a period in which it struggled to turn a profit. While banned in countries like the U.S., prop trading is still legal for French banks. SocGen rival BNP Paribas shut down its prop trading last month. (Bloomberg)

The man once dubbed “America’s least hated banker” just got a raise. J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon received $31 million in compensation for 2018, up more than 5% from last year. JPM just posted its most profitable year in its history. (Bloomberg)

Morgan Stanley is looking to build out its investment management unit through new hires or small acquisitions. The bank is particularly keen on growing its fixed income division. (Bloomberg)

Unlike its closest rivals, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s wealth management business actually increased its revenue during 2018. The bank credits its success to recent changes it made to its compensation structure, which incentivizes bringing in new clients while penalizing brokers who are happy to sit on their current book of business. While some brokers are still grumbling about the new system, it seems to be working. (WSJ)

Ex-Goldman Sachs president and former economic advisor to the White House Gary Cohn doesn’t see eye-to-eye with his former boss. And not the one named Lloyd Blankfein. Cohn, who is set to start teaching an economics course at Harvard, said the ongoing government shutdown over border wall funding is “completely wrong” and “makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.” Cohn is a bit freer to speak his mind now that he’s not working for Goldman or the White House. (Dealbreaker)

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