CVC Capital Partners has dismissed claims made by former employee Lisa Lee of sexual discrimination and harassment at the firm.
In a filing at the US District Court for New York’s Southern District, CVC claimed that Lee had “fractured relationships with co-workers” and her employment termination was a result of a reshuffling of the firm’s investor relations team that involved the firing of another, male, managing director.
Responding to Lee’s allegation that the male managing director was also of Asian descent, it added that while he was of Indian descent, his replacement was of Egyptian descent.
CVC also said Lee was not promoted to senior managing director because of her “relative experience (she had only been promoted to managing director in 2012), performance and poor relationships with other team members”.
It claimed that, in the past decade, only one managing director in the investor relations team had been promoted to senior managing director, and that Lee’s compensation was the highest of any of the investor relations managing directors, male or female.
CVC added that while the firm hired an executive coach in September 2014 to work with Lee, this additional help did not have “any meaningful change” in her working relationships at the firm.
Regarding Lee’s claim that CVC tried to take away her accounts while she was on maternity leave in 2012, the firm said that at the time it was preparing to launch its “largest and most complex fundraising” and had sought Lee’s comments on its proposal for temporary coverage of her accounts while she was on leave.
The firm also said that it had introduced Lee to investors when it agreed to relocate her from London to New York in 2009, because she did not have deep existing relationships with investors in North America.
Lee had also alleged that, when she left CVC, the firm denied her deferred compensation, claiming she was a “bad leaver”.
According to Lee, this resulted in her losing more than $10 million in equity compensation, as Private Funds Management reported in January.
In response, CVC said that when Lee left she was reminded of the firm’s shareholder agreement terms, which stated that all unvested and two-thirds of vested shares would be forfeited if a person joined a competitor of CVC within two years of departure.
Lee, who is now a managing director of business development at the $45 billion Providence Equity Partners, says she joined Providence in a capacity “that is not competitive with CVC”.
CVC responded that Providence is “another private equity firm which is a direct competitor to CVC”.
In response to CVC’s filing, Lee’s legal counsel, Outten and Golden, said that the firm was trying to “rewrite history” by dismissing the complaint to cover up alleged gender discrimination, maternity leave violations and harassment by a male CVC employee.
Outten and Golden stated that Lee “will prove her claims” and demand a fair culture for women at CVC.