BlackRock’s Wiedman Apologizes for ‘Clumsy and Misguided’ Cracks
(Bloomberg) -- Mark Wiedman, BlackRock Inc.’s head of international and corporate strategy, apologized Monday for inappropriate remarks at past work events, adding to a broader imbroglio over discrimination at the firm.
BlackRock will enlist law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to review the issue and other incidents to surface in recent weeks, and recommend improvements to internal procedures, Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink said in a memo to staff.
The $8.7 trillion asset manager has been hit with several claims including workplace harassment over gender and religion, in addition to Wiedman’s off-color remarks that were detailed in a report Monday by Institutional Investor.
“Incidents we’ve read about today and in recent weeks vary widely, but what they all have in common is that they should not happen at BlackRock,” Fink, 68, wrote in the memo.
Wiedman is widely viewed as one of Fink’s most likely successors.
BlackRock is seeking to balance its public statements about the need to foster an inclusive, diverse culture with claims that it’s not doing enough. This month, the firm held a global town hall to address those issues.
After BlackRock purchased Barclays Global Investors in 2009, Wiedman asked colleagues brash questions during dinners, Institutional Investor reported. On one occasion, he asked some of them to respond to the question “boxers or briefs?” -- singling out a female colleague. At another dinner with female employees, he asked about their “weirdest dreams,” according to the report.
“I deeply regret that I made any of my colleagues uncomfortable,” Wiedman said in a statement Monday. “Those comments were a clumsy and misguided attempt at building camaraderie that failed terribly, and I am sorry. I recognize that words matter and have worked since to have greater awareness of the impact of what I say.”
Separately, former employee Essma Bengabsia, an Arab-American Muslim woman, wrote in a Medium post in February that she faced bullying at BlackRock over her faith, including being rebuked for taking prayer breaks and for not wearing a Christmas sweater in December 2018. In a subsequent online post, she and another former staffer called on BlackRock to reform its handling of harassment complaints.
Manish Mehta, BlackRock’s head of human resources, said earlier this month that the company will change how it conducts investigations of employee complaints.
“We are more focused than ever before on rooting out any form of misconduct, including microaggressions that affect anyone’s experience at the firm,” a BlackRock spokesman said Monday.
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