Photographer: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg

Macquarie U.S. Executive Departs Amid Sexual Harassment Claim

  • Robert Ansell left bank’s New York office within past month
  • Khristina McLaughlin says in suit she was pushed into affair

Robert Ansell, head of U.S. cash equities for Macquarie Group Ltd., left the bank weeks before a colleague alleged in a lawsuit that she was pressured into having an affair with him.

Ansell pushed Khristina McLaughlin, now head of U.S. sales for cash equities, to begin a relationship in 2015 and continue it until this year, according to a complaint she filed Friday in federal court in Manhattan. She’s suing Ansell and the Australian bank’s U.S. unit for $40 million, saying co-workers are now ostracizing her, making her job impossible.

"No one had ever said no to me in a long time," Ansell, who’s married, allegedly wrote to her this year in a letter about their relationship, according to a copy attached to the suit. "You tried so many times to reset the boundaries, but we just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. I had to be with you."

McLaughlin said in the complaint that Ansell sent her snapshots of his penis in December and June. Copies of photos are included in the filing.

“We have only recently been made aware of these allegations and we have taken appropriate actions in response,” Paul Marriott, a spokesman for Sydney-based Macquarie, said in an emailed statement. “We take any allegation of workplace impropriety extremely seriously and have no tolerance for such conduct.”

Ansell didn’t return calls and online messages seeking comment.

Christmas Party

In Australia, lawyers for upset clients have accused Macquarie of having a chauvinistic culture and allowing predatory behavior, the Sydney Morning Herald reported in September. The company said those claims lack credible evidence. Beyond Wall Street, men who wield power across Hollywood, television, food, politics and journalism have been accused this year of harassing and assaulting women.

McLaughlin, a 40-year-old single mother, said Ansell switched jobs so that he could supervise her. Colleagues have sidelined her since he left the firm in the past month, according to the suit.

"My peers on the management team barely acknowledge me," McLaughlin said in an interview last week. "They don’t know what I went through."

McLaughlin had spent about seven years at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and joined Macquarie as a managing director in 2012. She won an award this month from the publisher Markets Media for women in finance.

Ansell, who was based in New York, first spoke to her at a 2014 Christmas party, according to the letter. He became infatuated with her, it said, and saw her crying in the office after a colleague yelled at her.

“What good fortune!” he wrote. “Now I had another reason to talk to you.”

‘Just Deal’

As the relationship deepened, she told him it was going somewhere she didn’t want it to be, he recounted in the letter.

“He came on to me and wouldn’t take no for an answer,” McLaughlin said in the interview. After their relationship became romantic, she said she didn’t tell the bank’s human resources department because she hadn’t been satisfied with the handling of the yelling incident she had previously brought to HR.

“You don’t want to be the girl that’s always going to HR," she said. "You work in a male-dominated industry. You suck it up and you just deal with it.”

Ansell promoted McLaughlin after he became her boss, telling her he would protect her pay, according to the suit. She said in the interview she tried to cut off their romantic relationship but was afraid he would take revenge.

It ended this year, after his wife read their messages on his phone, according to a screen grab of messages included in the suit.

“It’s just messy,” McLaughlin said in the interview. “No one wants a mess. I think we all know no one wants a messy woman."

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