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AMP sexual harassment report confirmed allegations, lawyer says

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The lawyer for the former employee behind the AMP Capital sexual harassment scandal has revealed details from an investigation document that was presented to her, as the company has reportedly refused to release the full text from the inquiry report.

The former AMP Capital employee who lodged a sexual harassment complaint against recently demoted chief executive Boe Pahari, Julia Szlakowski, and her legal representatives have released the findings from a two-page investigation document that was provided to her from AMP. 

The findings had addressed nine allegations, with external investigator, UK barrister Andrew Burns, confirming four of the actions as harassment, and two as not harassment, but inappropriate. All of the allegations were confirmed to have happened. 

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Ms Szlakowski called for all documents related to the investigation into her 2017 complaint to be released last week. 

But her legal representatives have reported that AMP “repeatedly refused” to publicly release the full text of her complaint against Mr Pahari and the two-page findings document it provided her, from the investigation as well as other related documents, such as communications between AMP and the external investigator. 

AMP stated it would release the report two weeks ago, before the demotion of Mr Pahari from his position as AMP Capital CEO and the departures of AMP chair David Murray and board member John Fraser, after the group copped backlash from shareholders. Ms Szlakowski the week before had revealed her identity and accused AMP of downplaying the harassment she had experienced

Following Mr Pahari’s demotion, AMP released the conclusion of the investigation report, which had stated Mr Pahari had exercised poor judgement, resulting in one moderate and two minor incidents adding up to a modest breach of the AMP Workplace Behaviour and Equal Opportunity Policy. 

It also issued apologies from Mr Pahari and AMP via the press release, but Ms Szlakowski’s lawyer, Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein, called the response “yet another attempt at corporate spin that misleads staff, shareholders and the public”.

The document is also said to compress six months of behaviour recorded in Ms Szlakowski’s complaint, from November 2016 to May 2017, into a 24-hour sequence in London. 

Unwelcome and intimidating... this was a significant lapse of judgement

Media accounts reported Ms Szlakowki, who at the time was institutional director, unlisted, Americas for AMP Capital, and is based in the US, had flown to London at the request of her then boss, Mr Pahari. 

As recounted by Mr Bornstein, the document showed Mr Pahari had invited her to go with him to a private club alone and he had given her his personal credit card to buy drinks. 

Mr Pahari was found to have asked Ms Szlakowski personal questions about men she had dated, he had repeatedly asked Ms Szlakowski to dance, and he had asked her to communicate with him via encrypting messaging channel WhatsApp. 

None of the above behaviours were found to be harassment, but Mr Pahari’s asking her to a private club was deemed “inappropriate”. 

His friends made inappropriate comments to her, which were deemed not harassment, but not aligned with Mr Pahari’s job as a senior manager, to ensure she was “not exposed to inappropriate comments from his friends”. 

Mr Pahari had been found to commit “harassment (minor)” when he said he wished he met Ms Szlakowski three to five years earlier, called a colleague a “fag” and used the word “bitch” to refer to her. 

He had also joked about “[limp-dick]” in conversation with Ms Szlakowki, which was found to be “harassment (moderate)” and noted to be “unwelcome and inappropriate”. 

He pressured her to stay in London, offered to buy her a dress and shoes and take her out – which the document deemed as “harassment”, with Mr Pahari’s behaviour being “unwelcome and intimidating... this was a significant lapse of judgement.” The acts were lumped together, Mr Bornstein said, and labelled as a single breach of AMP policy. 

“This certainly reads like an attempt to mask and minimise the number of adverse findings,” Mr Bornstein said. 

The document had also confirmed Mr Pahari had made multiple attempts to call and text Ms Szlakowski to check whether she was rescheduling her flight and whether she had his credit card – but it was deemed “not harassment”.

‘AMP is continuing to minimise what happened’

AMP had not notified Ms Szlakowski that the conclusion would be released, according to Maurice Blackburn, and the public apologies were not delivered to her personally. 

“Apologising via a press release is not genuine,” Mr Bornstein said. 

“It appears to be nothing more than an empty PR gesture.”

Mr Bornstein has criticised the findings document for failing to consider the extended course of misconduct in favour of isolating separate instances, which he said robs them of their context. Further, the document is said to not use the expression “sexual harassment”, which the Maurice Blackburn principal described as “simply bizarre”.

The report’s conclusion, he added, was also “incongruous” with the findings document.  

“The inconsistencies and deficiencies reflected in the findings document, together with the company’s disingenuous spin raise many questions about what has transpired,” he said. 

“Those questions can only be answered by AMP coming clean and providing all of the documents that we have requested.”

AMP CEO Francesco De Ferrari earlier in August indicated that cultural change is now his top priority, admitting that the company has a “lot more to do”. 

“However, at the same time AMP is continuing to publicly minimise what happened to Ms Szlakowski in order to justify its poor response,” Mr Bornstein said.

“This conduct is hardly in line with the cultural change desperately needed to build an inclusive and safe workplace.

“It’s time to AMP to own and properly acknowledge what Ms Szlakowski truly experienced. [She] is owed transparency and honesty, at the very least. So are AMP staff, shareholders and the public.”

 

AMP sexual harassment report confirmed allegations, lawyer says
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Sarah Simpkins

Sarah Simpkins

Sarah Simpkins is a journalist at Momentum Media, reporting primarily on banking, financial services and wealth. 

Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sarah worked in trade media and produced stories for a current affairs program on community radio. 

You can contact her on [email protected].

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