Prominent hedge fund investor Davide Serra was prone to making sexist remarks and harassed a close colleague, a London employment tribunal found.
Serra, chief executive officer and founder of Algebris Investments, made “wholly inappropriate comments” to Jolanda Niccolini, a senior executive responsible for investor relations and business development at Algebris, the tribunal ruled.
Serra told Niccolini he knew women can be hectic and unpredictable during menstruation shortly after she was demoted in 2019. He later warned her not to be overtaken by “a hormone storm.”
The comments were unacceptable and sexist and amounted to unlawful harassment, the tribunal said. It said Niccolini’s departure was also mishandled.
Niccolini received a total of about $40,000, including about $33,000 for hurt feelings. There was no price for financial loss.
The tribunal said it accepted that Serra had made comments on more than one occasion about the size of Niccolini’s breasts when he received clients at his chalet in Chamonix, France. It said it also accepted Serra saying he should only go to some meetings to discuss things between men and that men should present to a large audience of financial advisers as they were mostly men.
But it rejected Niccolini’s claim that the demotion was related to her being a woman and not concerns about her job performance.
An Algebris spokesperson said, “Algebris is committed to fostering an open and inclusive culture and our employees are our most important asset.”
Serra and Niccolini had been close friends since college and she was one of Serra’s most trusted associates before concerns arose in 2019 about her job performance, the court ruled. These included not attending important meetings and often working from home.
The tribunal’s findings provided insight into the ins and outs of one of Europe’s best-known asset managers, specializing in banks and financial institutions.
Details of bonus and salary arrangements for Niccolini and another Algebris executive were among the evidence cited in the tribunal’s verdict. Serra’s management style and dealings with customers were also scrutinized.
The verdict said Serra regarded Niccolini as exceedingly high for most of her employment. It said a male executive, Alex Lasagna, received more than the roughly $3 million in bonuses Niccolini earned between 2014 and 2019, but he found no sexual discrimination. Instead, the tribunal accepted that Serra considered lasagna to be more important to the company.
Serra was annoyed, the tribunal said, when the CEO of one of Italy’s largest banks called him to complain about a relatively young employee being sent to an important meeting. The junior employee also complained to Serra that she only went to client meetings and was not getting enough support from Niccolini.
Serra urged Niccolini and her team to meet face-to-face with Algebris’ 50 largest clients at least once every two months. The pair argued over changes Serra wanted and how to assess her team’s responsibility, the verdict said.