Crispin Odey urged a woman he groped at the headquarters of his hedge fund to downplay the incident to the financial watchdog while it considered whether he should retain his regulatory approval as a “fit and proper person”.
The woman, who is the 20th to come forward to the Financial Times with claims of sexual misconduct against the financier, said she was assaulted by Odey in 2005 when she was an employee at his hedge fund firm. She told Odey Asset Management’s longstanding lawyers about the incident during an internal inquiry in 2021, the findings of which were also shared with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority.
The former employee told a lawyer at Simmons & Simmons that a “culture of fairly prolific sexual harassment” from Odey prevailed at his firm, according to documents seen by the FT.
In Odey’s first admission of sexual misconduct against any of the 20 women who have made allegations against him, he told the FT: “The girl concerned did work for me in 2005 and I did grab her breasts and it was reported and investigated . . . I had just come back from having two hours [of] canal root fillings and was under heavy medication.”
The woman’s testimony given to Simmons raises further questions over what information the law firm included in its report, and why the FCA continued to view Odey as “fit and proper”. Her account further suggests a culture of complicity at the firm where Odey’s abusive behaviour towards women appears to have been widely tolerated.
The FT’s previous reporting detailed that he allegedly sexually harassed or assaulted 19 other women between 1985 and 2021. Of these, 12 were employees of the firm. In 2021, Odey was acquitted of a criminal charge of indecent assault. After the FT’s initial report in June, banks and service providers moved quickly to sever ties with Odey Asset Management and the firm’s partners ousted Odey from the business he founded in 1991, forcing the company to break itself up.
The new woman’s account has been corroborated by documents seen by the FT as well as through interviews with a family member in whom she confided at the time of the incident.
The woman claims the financier sexually assaulted her when she was working late in the firm’s Mayfair office alone one evening. She said Odey walked up behind her and massaged her shoulders before moving his hands over her chest and groping both of her breasts.
“I was shocked and screamed, ‘Crispin, what the hell are you doing?’,” she said.
He pulled away, apologised and left, according to the woman. The next day she reported the incident to Odey Asset Management’s then-chair, David Fletcher, who later gave her a typed file note recording the incident. A copy was also given to Odey, the woman said.
“At the time I was gobsmacked they put it in writing,” she said. The note said that, at the time of the assault, Odey had been under the influence of drugs he had taken during a dentist’s appointment.
Odey Asset Management kept a record of the incident in its human resources files, according to documents seen by the FT. The woman stayed at the firm until 2014 and said the financier did not sexually assault or harass her again.
Odey told the FT he had been “truly apologetic to the girl in question”, a woman then in her early 30s, and the fact that she stayed at the firm showed she “understood that this had been an aberration”.
“There was no attempt to hide this incident. It was not good but very much down to the anaesthetic,” he added.
In early 2022, after the FCA had opened an investigation into Odey over potential misconduct, the woman received a text from the fund manager, which read: “I really am sorry to get you involved but the FCA have been pursuing a vendetta against both OAM and myself and you are being used by them to show that there were no controls and you were in fear of my position in the company which stopped you from speaking out.”
“I am truly sorry for embarrassing you so long ago but I do not think that it is reason enough to close down OAM and call me unfit and improper. They may want to call you,” he concluded. The message was signed “Cx”.
She said she did not reply.
The FCA declined to comment. Odey has remained a fit and proper person on the watchdog’s register of people holding regulatory approval and the FCA’s probe is ongoing.
The woman was also contacted in December 2020 by Odey Asset Management’s in-house lawyer who asked if she would participate in the probe led by Simmons & Simmons.
In a transcript of a January 2021 phone call, seen by the FT, a lawyer at Simmons explained to her it was a “fact-finding exercise” and asked to discuss the 2005 incident that had been kept on file. The FT previously reported that Odey Asset Management had several similar instances on file, including this 2005 complaint, a 2004 sexual harassment complaint and more recent complaints made in 2020.
After describing the assault and a “culture of fairly prolific sexual harassment” from him at his firm, she told Simmons that she did not recall “any measure/rule put in place after the event to safeguard her”.
Simmons said its report “addressed the full scope of the inquiry” but declined to comment further, citing client confidentiality.
Odey Asset Management declined to comment.
The woman told the FT that working at Odey Asset Management had warped her perception of what is “normal workplace behaviour” and that she had decided to come forward now after much consideration because she feels “obligated to say something”.
“I’m not doing this for anything other than doing the right thing,” she said. “I want to show my [children] that I’m willing to do the right thing in the right circumstances.”
Additional reporting by Madison Marriage in London
Source: Financial Times