Bloomberg for years has battled women’s allegations of profane, sexist comments
NEW YORK - As Mike Bloomberg celebrated his 48th birthday in 1990, a top aide at the company he founded presented him with a booklet of profane, sexist quotes she attributed to him.
“A good salesperson is like a man who tries to pick up women at a bar by saying, “Do you want to f---? He gets turned down a lot - but he gets f---ed a lot, too!” Bloomberg was quoted in the booklet as saying. Bloomberg also allegedly said that his company’s financial information computers “will do everything, including give you (oral sex). I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business.”
At the time, some Bloomberg staffers said, they laughed off the comments in the 32-page booklet, “The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg,” as a macho side of one of the nerdiest men on Wall Street.
But others viewed them more darkly, seeing them as blunt examples of what they considered to be a hostile environment, artifacts of a workplace employees said was saturated with degrading comments.
Several lawsuits have been filed over the years alleging that women were discriminated against at Bloomberg’s business-information company, including a case brought by a federal agency and one filed by a former employee, who blamed Bloomberg for creating a culture of sexual harassment and degradation.
The most high-profile case was from a former saleswoman. She sued Bloomberg personally as well as his company, alleging workplace discrimination. She alleged Bloomberg told her to “kill it” when he learned she was pregnant. Bloomberg has denied her allegation under oath, and he reached a confidential settlement with the saleswoman.
The Washington Post interviewed a former Bloomberg employee, David Zielenziger, who said he witnessed the conversation with the saleswoman. Zielenziger, who said he had not previously spoken publicly about the matter, said Bloomberg’s behavior toward the woman was “outrageous. I understood why she took offense.”
While allegations about Bloomberg’s comments and treatment of women have received notice over the years, a review by the Post of thousands of pages of court documents, depositions obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with witnesses underscores how Bloomberg and his company, Bloomberg LP, have fought the claims.
A number of the cases have either been settled, dismissed in Bloomberg’s favor or closed because of a failure of the plaintiff to meet filing deadlines. The cases do not involve accusations of inappropriate sexual conduct; the allegations have centered around what Bloomberg has said and about the workplace culture he fostered.
Now, as Bloomberg is increasingly viewed as a viable Democratic candidate for president and the #MeToo era has raised the profile of workplace harassment, he is finding that his efforts to prevent disclosure are clashing against demands that he release former employees and complainants from their nondisclosure agreements.
Denies making statements
The allegations that he tolerated a hostile office culture could undercut his ability to criticize President Donald Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct and efforts to keep such claims private.
Other Democratic candidates have dealt with related issues. Sen. Bernie Sanders last year apologized to female staff members of his 2016 campaign who said they were sexually harassed by co-workers, saying it was “unacceptable behavior.” Former vice president Joe Biden, facing allegations that he had touched or kissed women without consent, said last year that his “expressions of affection” were misconstrued but that he would “pay attention” to the concerns.
One of Bloomberg’s rivals for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, said in December at an Iowa campaign stop that nondisclosure agreements are “a way for people to hide bad things they’ve done.” She called on Bloomberg to release women from such agreements.
Asked while campaigning to respond, Bloomberg said: “Maybe the senator should worry about herself and I’ll focus on myself.” He acknowledged enforcing nondisclosure agreements by his former employees and said, “You can’t just walk away from it. They’re legal agreements, and for all I know the other side wouldn’t want to get out of it.”
Bloomberg declined an interview request. A spokesman said Bloomberg would not release anyone from a confidentiality agreement, and that he would not release his depositions in the cases.
Bloomberg has given varying responses over the years when asked about some of the quotes in the “Wit and Wisdom” booklet. His spokesman said in 2001 that “some of the things he might have said” and Bloomberg apologized to “anyone that was offended by” the comments. Bloomberg at one point referred to them as “a bunch of Borscht Belt jokes.”