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Friday, January 26, 2018

An Ex-TCW PM Sues For $30MM, Alleging Sexual Harassment

News summary by MFWire's editors

A month after leaving TCW, a PM is suing her ex-boss, the CEO, and the company over alleged sexual harassment and breach of contract.

Yesterday Sara Tirschwell (former managing director of TCW's distressed strategy group and ex-PM of the TCW Distressed Fund) filed suit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in the County of New York in downtown Manhattan. [See the 33-page complaint here.] The suit names Jess Ravich (group managing director, TCW's head of alternative products, and Tirschwell's former boss and ex-boyfriend), David Lippman (president and CEO of TCW), and TCW itself, and Tirschwell is seeking $30 million in damages, plus compensation for lost earnings and attorney's fees.

The case looks like it could shape up to be TCW's highest profile legal battle since settling its infamous fight with a certain ex-TCW CIO. The Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, Pensions & Investments, Reuters, and the Wall Street Journal have all reported on Tirschman's suit.

Lippman and Ravich did not comment to any of the publications.

Tirschwell and Ravich met in 1994, reconnected in 2012 and dated for about a year, "remained friendly" after breaking up, according to Tirschwell's complaint. In 2015 and 2016 they negotiated Tirschwell teaming up with, and later joining, TCW to start a distressed debt fund. Yet, the complaint alleges, while that process was going on Ravich invited Tirschwell to his apartment eight or more times for breakfast meetings that ended with him pressuring her into sex as a "quid pro quo" for his business support. Tirschwell also alleges that Ravich groped in the office on multiple occasions.

After Tirschwell stopped attending the breakfast meetings at Ravich's apartment in February 2017, the complaint continues, "marketing came to a halt and Ravich became increasingly apathetic toward her, culminating in a campaign to take over the Distressed Fund." On December 3, 2017, Tirschwell alleges, Ravich was pressuring to accept a $700,000 severage package to leave TCW, so the next day she complained to HR in writing about Ravich. Yet on December 14, the complaint reads, Tirschwell was fired for "gross negligence".

"Ms. Tirschwell was dismissed for cause due to repeated, documented violations of firm policy, and had made no complaint of any kind before it was clear she was being dismissed," a TCW spokesman told multiple publications.

The spokesman added that TCW hired an independent investigator to dig into Tirschwell's claims and that Tirschwell "declined to participate in the investigation."

Tirschwell counters that TCW's accusation, that she breached an "ethical wall" by sharing information with someone on a different TCW team, was a manufactured pretext for firing her. And her attorneys told the publications that the investigator was hired after Tirschwell left TCW last month. 

Edited by: Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

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