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UBS Unit Loses $10.6 Million Sex Harassment Verdict in Missouri

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UBS Financial Services Inc. lost a jury verdict of almost $10.6 million in a case brought by a former sales assistant who said she was sexually harassed by a supervisor in Missouri and then fired for complaining about him.

Carla C. Ingraham, 51, who worked in the Kansas City, Missouri, office of UBS Financial, said the company began investigating her after she complained of harassment in December 2008 and fired her in July 2009. UBS Financial, a unit of Zurich, Switzerland-based UBS AG, denied the allegations.

The jury in Kansas City, Missouri, yesterday awarded Ingraham $10 million in punitive damages, $350,000 for sexual harassment and $242,000 for retaliation. UBS Financial is considering whether to appeal the verdict, said Karina Byrne, a spokeswoman for the bank.

“The firm does not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind against an employee,” Byrne said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The company “prohibits any form of retaliation against an employee who may file a complaint under the UBS sexual harassment policy.”

Byrne said the punitive-damages verdict will be limited to $500,000 by caps on such awards.

Ingraham will also be seeking future lost pay and attorneys’ fees to be added to the verdict, Dennis Egan, her lawyer, said. These amounts will be determined by the court and the punitive award will be capped at five times the final judgment, under law, Egan said.

New Supervisor

Ingraham, who began working for UBS predecessor Kidder, Peabody in 1986, assisted a broker, processing trade requests and preparing client presentations, she said in her complaint. She said the harassment began when she was assigned a new supervisor in January 2003.

The supervisor “repeatedly made inappropriate comments about Ingraham’s breast size,” called her into his office “to view sexually offensive e-mails on his computer,” and repeatedly talked about the size of his genitals,” she said. He also asked her about her sexual fantasies, she said in the lawsuit.

The verdict is “a wonderful vindication of the jury system,” Egan said after the trial yesterday. The company “said the claims were baseless, but then they issued all these letters of reprimand” against men at the company who worked at Ingraham’s office, he said.

The case is Ingraham v. UBS Financial Services Inc., 0916-CV-36471, Circuit Court, Jackson County, Missouri (Kansas City)

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