TCW Must Defend Discrimination Claim in Sex-Harassment Suit

(Bloomberg) -- Asset manager TCW Group Inc. must defend gender discrimination and breach of contract claims brought by a former portfolio manager in a sexual harassment lawsuit, a judge ruled.

But New York State Supreme Court Justice Robert Kalish dismissed other claims made by Sara Tirschwell, including that the company retaliated against her for complaining to human resources. He also rejected her request for punitive damages and her claim that TCW had breached good faith for failing to provide her with marketing and back-office support and access to its institutional investors.

Tirschwell “was terminated by TCW for committing several compliance violations, as well as for other issues with her conduct and job performance,” Kalish said in a series of rulings Friday. “She has failed to raise a triable issue of fact that this termination was retaliatory.”

Kalish said records show TCW Group had already decided to end Tirschwell’s employment weeks before she complained to human resources.

Tirschwell sued in 2018 as the #MeToo movement was spreading across industries, prompting women to share their stories of sexual misconduct and gender inequity.

She claimed she was fired in December 2017 as managing director of the firm’s Distressed Strategy Group about nine days after she complained that Jess Ravich, her group’s managing director, made unwanted sexual advances during breakfast meetings over 10 months. She also named David Lippman, then-TCW Group’s chief executive officer, in the lawsuit.

The judge dismissed an abetting claim against Lippman. Ravich left the Los Angeles-based company that oversees about $200 billion in June 2019.

In rejecting Tirschwell’s request for punitive damages, Kalish ruled that TCW Group and Ravich “have established that there is no evidentiary route by which a jury could reasonably find that they acted with conscious disregard of the rights of others.” However, the judge said it will be up to a jury to determine if she should get any actual damages.

“Mr. Ravich is pleased that the court recognized that Ms. Tirschwell has no basis for her wrongful termination and punitive damages claims against him and dismissed them once and for all even without a trial,” Ravich’s lawyer Robert Sacks said in an email.

“Mr. Ravich categorically denies every allegation on which Ms. Tirschwell bases her remaining claim,” Sacks said. “There was no greater supporter of Ms. Tirschwell at TCW than Mr. Ravich and her continued assault on his good name and reputation is both frivolous and insulting.”

“We are gratified by the court’s decision,” TCW spokesman Doug Morris said.

Tirschwell’s lawyer, Steven Storch, said: “We are pleased that Mr. Ravich’s and TCW’s efforts to block this case from being heard by a jury have failed. We look forward to the trial.”

The case is Tirschwell v. TCW Group Inc, 150777/2018, New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan).

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