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Why investment banks cannot have Christmas parties

There was a time when investment banks held wild Christmas parties. We have documented that time here. Veterans will remember, for example, the Bloomberg 'deadly sins' themed Christmas party of 2000, which included a 'lust room' with a 25-foot-wide bed covered in purple satin.

Things have, however, changed. As we move into Christmas party season, parties are now far more tepid and senior bankers are wary of drinking. There is good reason for this.

That reason is contained in Ardith Lindsey's claim against Citgroup. Citi is denying Ardith's allegations and plans to fight them in court. She is alleging, among other things, that Citi's then-Head of Program Trading and Electronic Execution, who was allegedly known for his hard-partying, assaulted her after the bank's Christmas party in 2007, months after she joined as an analyst aged 24. He didn't respond to a request to comment on Ardith's allegations and his current employer said it does not comment pending litigation. 

During the party, Ardith alleges that the MD threatened to fire her if she went home. When the party ended, they went out to several bars, after which he walked Lindsey home and she says the alleged assault took place. 

That MD left Citi in 2009. A spokesman for the bank says its values and expectations are clear: "no one should ever be discriminated against or harassed in the workplace," and, "decisive action must be taken when unacceptable behavior takes place." Andrew Morton, the head of Citi's London based markets business has this week asked for members of his team to speak out against sexism.

2007 is 16 years ago, and it's reasonable to assume that things have changed since. However, Lindsey's isn't the only allegation concerning unacceptable behaviour at offsites, some of it recent, and Citigroup isn't the only bank afflicted. The New York Times says Ardith's allegedly aggressive boss and lover, Mani Singh, berated a female VP who'd criticized his work at the 2017 Citi Christmas party and that she left in tears. Last year, one senior banker at a US bank is understood to have insulted people at a party attended by the CEO. In her semi-fictional book, Bully Market, Jamie Fiore Higgins, a former Goldman Sachs managing director describes the inappropriate behavior at a Goldman Sachs holiday party in the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, where senior bankers 'bumped and grinded' with assistants.

As party season comes into view, therefore, most banks will be aiming for quiet affairs. Preferably without dancing. Or alcohol. 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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