Exclusive: A rare #MeToo lawsuit against Wall Street’s sexist culture just settled out of court

Exclusive: A rare #MeToo lawsuit against Wall Street’s sexist culture just settled out of court

Five years after the #MeToo movement swept corporate America, a landmark trial scheduled to start this week could have kicked off a new round of reckoning on Wall Street. Instead, the case has quietly settled out of court, Fortune is the first to report.

In 2018, a veteran investor named Sara Tirschwell sued her former employer, bond giant TCW Group, alleging that she had been sexually harassed by her boss and then fired in retaliation for reporting it. Over the past five years, her lawsuit has been closely watched as one of the first—and only—post-#MeToo efforts to hold a large financial firm publicly accountable for Wall Street’s widely-acknowledged sexist culture.

A trial in the case was scheduled to start on Monday—but Tirschwell and her former employer have settled the case, Steven G. Storch, Tirschwell’s attorney, tells Fortune.

“TCW and Sara Tirschwell have resolved their litigation pursuant to a confidential settlement agreement. Both parties are pleased to have resolved the matter,” Storch wrote by email, declining to comment further. A spokesperson for TCW, which had denied all the allegations, sent the same statement. A legal filing dated April 13 shows that the attorneys for both parties agreed to dismiss Tirschwell’s lawsuit “with prejudice”—meaning permanently.

Tirschwell had already resolved her dispute with one of the original defendants, Jess Ravich, her former manager and alleged harasser (who has firmly denied wrongdoing). In December, Tirschwell and Ravich agreed to settle her claims against him and dismiss him from the lawsuit, according to a legal filing. “Sara Tirschwell and Jess Ravich have mutually resolved their differences,” an attorney for Ravich said by email today.

The settlement may come as a disappointment to those hoping to finally see a large financial company forced to confront claims of sexual harassment in public. The #MeToo reckoning has had visible impacts in media and entertainment, among other industries, where some high-profile men were forced to resign or were even jailed over claims of sexual harassment and misconduct towards employees—but by those standards, finance has remained largely unscathed. Tirschwell’s lawsuit made headlines for being one of few publicly disclosed #MeToo cases on Wall Street.

“Change happens slowly, and then all at once,” Tirschwell told me last fall. “Change is still happening very slowly on Wall Street—but maybe this is the moment.” 

Wall Street has largely been able to resolve claims like Tirschwell’s quietly, thanks to the widespread use of mandatory arbitration agreements and confidential out-of-court settlements. (In this case, Tirschwell did not have such an agreement.) A year-old federal law now prohibits employers from forcing workers into arbitration over claims of sexual harassment. But the law does not apply to claims of gender bias or other types of discrimination.

Claims of sexism on Wall Street may still be aired in court soon: About 1,400 current and former Goldman Sachs employees are suing the investment bank over claims of gender discrimination, in a class-action lawsuit that is scheduled to go to trial next month. (Goldman denies the allegations.)

Lead plaintiff Cristina Chen-Oster, a former Goldman Sachs vice president, first filed a federal gender-bias complaint against the bank in 2005—yes, 18 years ago.

“We knew at the beginning it would be a long haul—but I’m not sure I expected it to take this long,” she told me in the fall. “Wall Street is still slow to make real changes.”


Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.