Anthemis CEO resigned after staff sexual harassment complaint: sources

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The CEO of Anthemis Group, a London-based venture capital firm that invests in financial technology, resigned on Monday following a sexual harassment complaint by a female employee, four people familiar with the matter told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

FILE PHOTO: People cast long shadows in the winter sunlight as they walk across a plaza in the Canary Wharf financial district of London, Britain, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

The company confirmed it had launched an internal review that ultimately led management to ask CEO Nadeem Shaikh to resign on Monday.

Shaikh denied any “intentional wrongdoing” and said he had not been forced to resign when asked for comment by Reuters.

Co-founded by Shaikh, Amy Nauiokas and Sean Park in 2010, Anthemis, which also has offices in New York, is one of the best-known venture capital firms that backs young financial technology companies.

“Issues were raised internally related to Nadeem’s conduct, which we investigated immediately,” Park, Anthemis’s chairman, said in an emailed statement to Reuters on Wednesday.

“The investigation uncovered a number of occasions where Nadeem did not consistently uphold the principles that we hold dear at Anthemis,” Park said. “We brought these issues to Nadeem’s attention, and he subsequently resigned from the company.”

Park did not elaborate on the nature of the misconduct, but a staff meeting was held in Anthemis’s office on Monday afternoon, where employees were informed Shaikh had resigned following behavior that was inconsistent with the company’s values, two of the people with direct knowledge of meeting said.

Park and co-founder Nauiokas dialed in to the conference call and Park read an apology attributed to Shaikh, the sources said. Executives told staff they could not discuss the matter in detail for legal reasons, one of the people said.

When asked for comment by Reuters on Wednesday, Shaikh said he had not been pushed to resign and denied any wrong doing.

“I am aware of the complaint that was made,” Shaikh told Reuters in a phone interview.

“I absolutely deny any intentional wrongdoing,” he said. “I was not pushed out” he added. “I resigned myself to protect the company and people that I care about lot. I apologize to anyone that may have been hurt in the process.”

Shaikh also said the company had decided to make some changes to its corporate strategy, such as moving away from offering advisory services, which was an area he had focused on.The company advises large financial institutions on their digital strategy.

The Financial Times reported on Monday that Shaikh had resigned.

Shaikh’s departure comes after the resignations of many prominent men in politics, business and entertainment in the past year, fueled in part by the social media #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment.

Anthemis has invested in prominent financial technology companies like adviser Betterment, digital bank Atom Bank and trading platform eToro.

The company also makes co-investments with large financial institutions. In 2016 it set up a €200 million join investment vehicle with Italian banking group Unicredit SpA CRDI.MI.

Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Clive McKeef