After making hundreds of millions of pounds “betting on Brexit” in 2016, Crispin Odey took to the BBC to boast of his accomplishments. “I still think tomorrow they’re gonna take it all away from me,” he said with a laugh. His fears may now be realised, said the Financial Times (FT).
The hedge fund titan behind Odey Asset Management is “used to wild swings in his portfolio”, but his latest troubles are of quite a different order. An FT investigation reported serious allegations of harassment and sexual abuse from 13 women who worked for Odey, or had dealings with him, stretching back decades.
The incidents – which included terrorising receptionists with his attentions and “masturbating on a female entrepreneur after a business meeting” – point to a thoroughly “abusive workplace culture”. Top executives knew about “the big man’s” behaviour, “but took 16 years to launch a formal inquiry”.
In 2021, Odey was cleared in court of sexual assault against a female banker; afterwards, his behaviour got worse. When his executive committee “tried to rein him in”, he fired them.
Odey and his law firm have “strenuously denied” the latest claims, but the world of finance is rapidly cutting ties, said Alex Ralph in The Times. Odey has been ousted from the firm he founded 32 years ago, and the partners are planning to completely rebrand the business. “Crispin Odey”, observed one stock broker, “has become Crispin Odious”.
Banks including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan have already begun to move business away from the Mayfair-based firm, which had around £3.5bn in assets under management. Investors, including Schroders, have been pulling their cash.
“A wave of redemption requests” has forced the asset manager “to close one fund and gate two others” until calm is restored, said Katherine Griffiths on Bloomberg. But matters are complicated by Odey’s own interests. He reportedly still has around £600m invested in the firm, and may challenge his forced exit.
Lessons to be learnt
These cases “paint a disturbing picture of predatory alpha male behaviour and female vulnerability in the financial world”, said Ruth Sunderland in the Daily Mail. But senior male executives “feel a sense of jeopardy” too – they worry that merely being accused of misconduct “could blight a career”.
One big question, said Helen Thomas in the FT, is whether investigations into misconduct by banks and other institutions are actually “fit for purpose”. This is an industry that is paid “to carry out searching due diligence”, and that is under regulatory duties to vet staff and clients – so how did Odey slip through the net? “There must be lessons here.” There are still plenty of other Odeys in the City.