Talpins's Element Hedge Fund Is Sued for Discrimination

(Bloomberg) -- A former managing director at Element Capital Management sued the hedge fund, alleging that she received far less pay than her male counterparts and had to handle menial tasks for founder Jeffrey Talpins, including reconciling his decorating bills and managing his traffic tickets.

Deborah Rose Stine, 52, filed the gender discrimination suit against the firm last week in New York Supreme Court after initially submitting a complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September, according to a copy of the court filing.

A representative for Element Capital said Stine’s employment was terminated because of poor performance. “The allegations in the complaint are baseless and Element intends to fully defend itself against these false claims,” the representative said.

Until recently, money management firms had largely avoided the sexual harassment and gender discrimination cases that have hit other industries, including the media and entertainment businesses. But Wall Street’s exposure is mounting, as evidenced by recent cases or settlements involving Seth Klarman’s Baupost Group and Steven Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management.

Soros, Goldman

Stine, who was hired by Element to handle domestic and international taxes, accounting and payroll management and to oversee Talpins’s personal finances, said in the complaint that her compensation “paled in comparison” to that of male managing directors. When Stine was fired in 2017, the complaint says, Element’s 54-member staff included only six other women, four of whom were administrative assistants.

Before joining Element in March 2015, Stine had worked for a major accounting firm, as chief administration officer for several units of Soros Fund Management and as chief financial officer at Spectra Financial Group, according to the suit. She also spent a decade at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., initially as an associate and later as a vice president.

While at Goldman, roughly 18 years ago, Stine filed a discrimination suit against the bank after receiving a so-called right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, according to last week’s complaint. Stine’s case against Goldman was dismissed by stipulation between the two parties after almost two years of litigation, the current suit says.

In March, a separate gender discrimination suit that Cristina Chen-Oster and three other women filed against Goldman in 2010 received class-action status, permitting the plaintiffs to represent as many as 2,300 other current and former employees.

‘Rampant Discrimination’

“It is becoming all too clear that women on Wall Street,” Stine’s suit says, “have encountered career-long, rampant discrimination and harassment.”

Talpins, a rising star on Wall Street, also worked at Goldman in the late 1990s. After graduating from Yale University, Talpins joined Goldman’s mortgage-backed securities department, where he initially structured cash flows into MBS derivatives and then traded options on mortgage-backed debt.

Element, which has more than $13 billion under management, is a macro fund that, among other things, sought to profit from relative-value bets in fixed-income markets. More recently, the fund reaped more than $3 billion in profits from a 2017 wager that President Donald Trump’s tax bill would pass, driving stocks and yields on U.S. Treasuries higher.

Wine Bottle

Stine, who reported directly to Talpins, found upon joining Element that her role was much different than promised, according to her complaint. On her first day, she said, Talpins gave her a list of neglected projects to complete, including revamping a back office, setting up a U.K. banking and payroll system, and reviewing all current books and taxes for Element and for Talpins’s charitable foundation, as well as the last five years of his personal tax returns and financial statements.

Talpins “insisted” that Stine handle tasks such as drafting thank you notes, choosing hostess gifts to be sent from him, and finding a way to move him to the top of a parking lot waiting list, according to the complaint. She said she was required to reconcile Talpins’s decorating bills, manage “his various traffic violations” and argue with a wine store about the price of a bottle the Element CEO had received as a gift.

Stine, who resides in Wyckoff, New Jersey, couldn’t be reached for comment. David Wechsler, the New York attorney who is handling Stine’s suit, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

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