Cohen's Point72 wants lawsuit over hostility to women sent to arbitration

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Steven A. Cohen asked a U.S. judge to force a female executive to arbitrate her claims that his firm, Point72 Asset Management LP, maintains a hostile working environment where women are mistreated and paid less than men.

FILE PHOTO - Steven Cohen, Chairman and CEO of Point72 Asset Management, speaks at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., May 2, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

In a Wednesday night filing in the U.S. district court in Manhattan, Cohen and Point72 said the plaintiff, Lauren Bonner, agreed to arbitrate employment disputes as a condition of working at the Stamford, Connecticut-based firm.

They faulted Bonner’s “indisputable failure” to honor her June 2016 employment agreement, by suing for damages and an injunction against further discrimination, and said her lawsuit should be dismissed or put on hold.

Bonner plans to respond by a Feb. 28 deadline, her lawyer Jeanne Christensen said in a email on Thursday. Cohen has not been accused of inappropriate behavior.

Arbitration can offer defendants procedural protections not available in court, and keep potentially unpleasant details out of the public eye because proceedings are private.

Roughly 60.1 million U.S. workers are subject to arbitration agreements in their employment, according to the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute.

Bonner, an associate director, alleged that “structural sexism” pervades Point72, where men can be paid twice as much as women for the same work, and women’s abilities and bodies are regularly denigrated.

Her complaint included an allegation that President Douglas Haynes, also a defendant, left the word “pussy” for several weeks on a whiteboard in his office.

In a statement after the complaint was filed on Monday, Point72 denied Bonner’s allegations, stood by its treatment of women, and said “our female investment professional workforce exceeds published industry averages - a direct result of our concerted and sustained focus on promoting diversity.”

Cohen has been preparing to resume handling outside money following the recent lifting of a two-year ban by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which said he failed to supervise a portfolio manager who conducted insider trading at his former firm, SAC Capital Advisors LP.

Though Cohen was not charged in that case, SAC pleaded guilty and paid $1.8 billion to resolve various probes.

Point72 has been managing Cohen’s personal fortune. Forbes magazine estimates his net worth at $14 billion.

On Tuesday, the defendants asked U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres to seal Bonner’s complaint, saying it revealed “highly confidential and sensitive” details, including pay, and accused Bonner of trying to harm Point72’s reputation and perhaps “generate publicity.”

Christensen plans to respond to that request by a Friday deadline.

The case is Bonner v Point72 Asset Management LP et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-01233.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky