(Bloomberg) -- A female Citigroup Inc. equities managing director sued the bank, alleging that she endured “horrifying” sexual assault and harassment by superiors, including a senior executive who she claims threatened her and her children after she ended their relationship.
Ardith Lindsey filed suit against Citigroup Monday in federal court in Manhattan. She claimed that, despite cultivating a gender-inclusive public image, the bank knowingly tolerated a “locker room” environment on the trading floor in which women were ranked based on their appearance, openly discussed in terms of their sex appeal, pressured to go to strip clubs and excluded from professional opportunities.
Lindsey, who said she is on medical leave because of the alleged abuse, claims she was sexually assaulted by a former superior, Richard Evans, shortly after joining the bank in 2007. Much of her complaint focused on former managing director Mani Singh, who she said used his power at the bank to coerce her into a relationship. He was swiftly promoted at Citigroup despite a history of misconduct, according to the suit.
She says she finally decided to end their relationship in October 2022, after which he subjected her to an “onslaught of shocking abuse via hundreds of text messages and incessant phone calls.” Lindsey cited many of these alleged messages in her suit, including ones in which Singh allegedly told her that her “world will be over,” that her kids’ “life will be ruined” and that he planned take her “down in comp. Hard.”
‘Vile Text Messages’
Citigroup said in an emailed statement that it will defend itself against Lindsey’s claims. It called Singh’s conduct, as alleged in the suit, “deplorable” but said Lindsey described him as “only a friend” several years ago when questioned about a “large financial transaction” between them. The bank said it immediately placed Singh on leave after she reported the “vile text messages” and he resigned a few days later, before an internal investigation could be completed.
“Setting aside what we think are the merits of any individual claim, however, our values and expectations are clear — no one should ever be discriminated against or harassed in the workplace,” the bank said. “Our colleagues should feel confident they can raise concerns about themselves or others without fear of retribution, and decisive action must be taken when unacceptable behavior takes place.”
Neither Singh, who was North America markets cash equity execution services head before resigning in November 2022, nor Evans were named as defendants in the suit. Singh didn’t immediately respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment and a request passed through a lawyer representing him in an unrelated matter. Evans also didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment through his LinkedIn page, his current work email and personal email.
Lindsey said the assault by Evans, then Citigroup’s global head of program trading and electronic execution for Europe, Middle East and Africa, took place after the bank’s 2007 holiday party. She claims Evans pressured her to stay out drinking and insisted on walking her home. After she let him upstairs to use her bathroom, Lindsey says she fell asleep but was awakened by Evans kissing her.
Allowed to Resign
Evans later made other advances, Lindsey says, including running a hand up her leg while pretending to tie his shoe. She says she reported his conduct to her manager but that the bank did nothing.
A Citigroup spokesman said the bank “has no record of a complaint made by Ms. Lindsey from that time” about Evans.
According to Lindsey’s suit, Singh wore down her initial resistance to engaging in a relationship with over-the-top displays of affection but that he quickly became manipulative and abusive. She claims he often threatened her with physical violence and also to use his more senior position to hurt her career. According to her suit, Lindsey remained with Singh for years because she was afraid of him.
Lindsey says Citigroup was forced to act after she complained about Singh’s “deranged” texts. But she claims the bank covered up his misconduct, allowing him to resign, characterizing his departure as entirely his decision and saying Citigroup was “sorry to see him go.”
The suit also describes Singh and other Citi executives frequently denigrating women, including ranking them by appearance. Lindsey claims Singh told her in a text, “You barely top 10 and [t]hat[’]s for a trading floor.” According to her suit, a desk head in 2017 used a book of first-year analysts’ headshots to rank them by “hotness.”
Singh and other Citigroup executives also allegedly frequently pressured her to attend strip club outings, Lindsey alleges. Following one of these purported trips, Lindsey claims a client told her he was horrified by the Citigroup executives’ behavior.
“If you ever need a witness, I’ll be your witness,” she says the client said. She didn’t identify the client.
Despite facing a “boy’s club” environment, Lindsey says she achieved success at Citigroup. According to her suit, she was identified as a top performer and assigned to handle some of the bank’s most significant accounts even as a junior employee. She was promoted to managing director in 2021 and was told she was under consideration to be future head of the cash execution division.
Lindsey is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, saying that the abuse she’s suffered has left her unable to work and suffering from traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and major neurocognitive disorder. She said the alleged abuse has led to a “24-point drop in IQ and an alarming decline in her memory, executive function, and attention span.”
She also said in her suit that she is taking advantage of a 2022 federal law that invalidates employment agreements requiring private arbitration of sexual assault and harassment claims.
The case is Lindsey v. Citigroup Global Markets Inc., 23-cv-10166, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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