Newly filed motion reveals 133 internal complaints of gender discrimination at Goldman and nine charges filed with EEOC; class comprises more than 1,400 current/former women vice-presidents and associates at Goldman who encountered discrimination over pay, promotion, and reviews

NEW YORK (September 21, 2022) — A gender class action lawsuit against Goldman Sachs pending since 2010 is finally headed to a federal trial in New York, while a set of previously sealed claims against the bank has been made public.

The major developments were announced by law firms Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP and Outten & Golden LLP, who represent a large group of current and former Goldman executives comprising a discrimination class action, captioned as Chen-Oster v. Goldman, Sachs & Co., No. 10 Civ. 6950.

Background: The court previously granted plaintiffs’ request to certify a class in 2018.  The court certified the intentional gender discrimination as well as disparate impact discrimination claims of a class of thousands of current and former associates and vice-presidents in Goldman’s Securities, Investment Banking and Investment Management Divisions since July 2002 (in New York City) and since September 2004 (nationally). The class certification order can be found here.

Trial Date Set for June 2023 After Court Rejects Goldman’s Serial Attacks on Class Membership: In the dozen years since the case was filed, Goldman Sachs has launched repeated attacks on class membership, including: five failed attempts to undo the class entirely; adding a hidden arbitration clause in an attempt to remove nearly 700 class members employed by Goldman between 2016-18 (nearly one-half of whom subsequently expressly requested not to be removed); and imposing waivers in severance agreements on over 750 class members who left the firm and were removed from the class by Goldman non-disclosure agreements.

Despite these persistent attacks against their own employees, a class of over 1,400 women is heading to trial.  In its most recent order, the court set a starting trial date for June 5, 2023 for this long-running case. It will be held in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Unsealing of Critical Evidence Against Goldman:  Pursuant to the latest court order, plaintiffs have filed newly unsealed records concerning submissions and evidence underlying their motion for class certification.  In their motion, plaintiffs identified 133 internal complaints of gender discrimination at Goldman Sachs and 9 charges of discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as company policy and task force documents, plus expert opinions regarding the challenged promotion, performance and pay systems, which Plaintiffs contend show evidence of gender discrimination. Today, plaintiffs lodged 47 of the previously-referenced complaint and charge records in the public record, which can be found here.  (Names of complainants were not filed publicly.)

Shareholder Opposition to Arbitration of Harassment Claims Has Not Stopped Goldman from Using Arbitration to Remove 1,500 Women Involuntarily from the Class:   Plaintiffs allege that during its 2021 annual meeting Goldman disregarded shareholder outcry that mandatory arbitration unjustly allows gender discrimination and harassment to go unseen and unaddressed. Goldman defended its forced arbitration policy in a December 2021 public corporate governance communication as “appropriate” and finding “no indication” that its use limited access to legal representation.

These findings flatly contradict expert, judicial and scholarly recognition that mandatory arbitration closes the courtroom doors against too many discrimination victims.  Notably, among those removed from the class due to forced arbitration provisions is former Goldman managing director Jamie Fiore Higgins, who recounted her own experience facing discrimination in a recently published book, Bully Market: My Story of Money and Misogyny at Goldman Sachs.

Key Players: All 1,400-plus class members are women who worked for Goldman as associates or vice-presidents, with class claims for discrimination in performance pay and promotion, with the named plaintiffs also bringing claims for retaliation, unlawful or constructive termination, and pregnancy discrimination.

Experts: Plaintiffs’ experts include labor economist Dr. Henry Farber, of Princeton University, and human resources expert Dr. Caren Goldberg, currently the Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Seville.  Dr. Farber reviewed Goldman’s data and determined that women at Goldman had less favorable outcomes than their male counterparts to a statistically significant degree. Female vice-presidents and associates were paid substantially less than comparable men with the same position, seniority, division, and business unit. He also found that women were under-promoted to managing director.  Dr. Farber’s report can be found here.

Dr. Caren Goldberg conducted a deep review of Goldman’s policies, complaints, diversity & inclusion work, and HR processes, work groups, and committees. She determined that Goldman maintains a climate tolerant of sexual harassment and gender bias.  Her report can be found here.

Next Steps:  The court will set deadlines for pre-trial filings concerning evidence and witnesses. More information – including key court filings in the case – is available at the website: https://goldmangendercase.com/

Statements by named plaintiffs and lawyers:

Lead Plaintiff Cristina Chen-Oster stated: “I hope this case will help to finally break the glass ceiling for women on Wall Street and set a precedent for other industries where gender discrimination is pervasive.  We need to bring transparency to practices that previously seemed untouchable.  Looking forward to sharing our experiences at trial.”

Plaintiff Allison Gamba said: “When I joined Goldman Sachs I had such high hopes for the future.  I loved being a trader and excelled at the top of my field in multiple divisions at the firm for many years.  Despite all of my accomplishments including earning record profits for the firm during the year when I became a mother, I believe I was passed over for Managing Director multiple times and retaliated against because I decided to start a family.  If Goldman tried to make me a cautionary tale, I refuse to let this be the end of my story.”

Plaintiff Shanna Orlich stated: “I joined Goldman Sachs after completing a joint MBA/JD program at Columbia University, but soon came to understand that my credentials were not as important as my gender, as I watched a male classmate get brought into the boys’ club based on pushup contests on the trading floor.  I regret joining Goldman, as I think my career never had a chance there. I want to see a better future for other women and men in the industry.”

Plaintiffs’ co-counsel Kelly Dermody of Lieff Cabraser stated, “It has been a long road for our clients and the many other women in the class who have been waiting for accountability at Goldman, and we look forward to finally trying our case in an open courtroom next spring. While Goldman may even try to claim it is no longer the same place it was when our case was first filed, recent news accounts suggest otherwise. We intend to demonstrate that the careers of so many accomplished women were derailed and stifled by Goldman’s discriminatory actions.”

Plaintiffs’ co-counsel Adam Klein of Outten & Golden said: “We are looking forward to presenting our case to a jury and seeking justice long overdue for our clients.  We are also pleased that a large portion of evidence, including testimony from class members as well as internal Goldman documents, can finally be shared.”

Information about Plaintiffs’ Counsel

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP:  Lieff Cabraser is one of the country’s largest and most successful firms exclusively representing plaintiffs in civil litigation, having secured verdicts or settlements worth over $127 billion for clients nationwide. With 120 attorneys, the firm has led some of the most significant litigation of the last decade, including the VW clean diesel emissions case, which resulted in over $15 billion for VW owners (In re: Volkswagen ‘Clean Diesel’ Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 2672 (Northern District of California federal court)); and the high-tech cold-calling wage conspiracy case alleging an agreement among prominent technology companies to not poach each other’s employees, which resulted in settlements totaling $435 million (In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-2509-LJK (Northern District of California federal court)).  Lieff Cabraser is currently class counsel in the gender pay equity class action, Ellis v. Google LLC, No. CGC-17-561299, which recently settled for $118 million. Lieff Cabraser represents employees in all variety of class, collective, and #metoo actions.

Outten & Golden LLP:  Outten & Golden LLP focuses on advising and representing individuals in employment, partnership, and related workplace matters both domestically and internationally. The firm counsels individuals on employment and severance agreements; handles complex compensation and benefits issues (including bonuses, equity agreements, and partnership interests); and advises professionals (including doctors and lawyers) on contractual issues. It also represents employees with a wide variety of claims, including discrimination and harassment based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, disability, national origin, religion, and age, as well as retaliation, whistleblower, and contract claims. The firm handles class actions involving a wide range of employment issues, including economic exploitation, gender- and race-based discrimination, wage-and-hour violations, violations of the WARN Act, and other systemic workers’ rights issues. Outten & Golden has nine practice groups: Executives & Professionals, Financial Services, Sexual Harassment & Sex Discrimination, Family Responsibilities & Disabilities Discrimination, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Workplace Rights, Discrimination & Retaliation, Whistleblower Retaliation, Class & Collective Actions, and WARN Act. Outten & Golden has offices in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

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