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- Mike Bloomberg insisted from the presidential debate stage that wrongdoers at his company would be “gone that day.” But at least one senior Bloomberg News editor accused of misconduct remained in his job long after women raised internal complaints, a Business Insider investigation has found.
- More than a dozen former Bloomberg News insiders told Business Insider that former Washington editor Al Hunt was abusive toward staff and touched women inappropriately, and survived in his role for years despite repeated complaints and two financial settlements.
- Hunt denies touching women inappropriately. Asked about the accusations, a Bloomberg spokesperson said there are “certainly instances where we wish we had handled some complaints differently.”
- Though Mike Bloomberg says his crude remarks about women are a thing of the past, a former employee says he made sexist comments in the workplace as recently as 2014.
- According to a different former employee, Mike Bloomberg once denied a woman a promotion because he didn’t want “that fat woman” representing his company. The woman now appears in a campaign commercial touting Bloomberg as a champion of women.
- Three women of color were so dispirited by their experience working for Bloomberg that they sent a letter to their alma mater, a historically black college, warning it not to help Bloomberg recruit from campus.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Mike Bloomberg quickly found himself on the defensive last month at the Nevada Democratic Debate, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren accused him of tolerating discrimination and sexist behavior at the eponymous financial data services company he founded in 1981.
In response, Bloomberg was defiant.
“I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the #MeToo movement has exposed,” he said from the stage. “And anybody that does anything wrong in our company, we investigate it, and if it’s appropriate, they’re gone that day.”
The comment sounded strong, but Bloomberg insiders tell a different story: A Business Insider investigation involving interviews with more than 40 current and former Bloomberg LP employees has found allegations of a toxic, macho workplace culture fueled by fear, in which powerful people screamed at underlings and bullied them with impunity. When they reported claims of inappropriate behavior to human resources, these staffers said, they were routinely ignored.
Business Insider has learned that the former Washington editor of Bloomberg News, Al Hunt, was accused over the course of years by multiple women of giving unsolicited massages and verbally berating employees for minor infractions. Despite at least two financial settlements with women who complained about the editor, he continued in his position for years.
Do you have a tip about working at Bloomberg LP, or about Michael Bloomberg? Contact this reporter at email@example.com, direct-message on Twitter at @NicoleEinbinder, or text our tips line via Signal or WhatsApp at 646-768-4744.
Diana Taylor, Bloomberg’s longtime girlfriend, came out earlier this week in defense of Bloomberg’s treatment of women. “It was 30 years ago. Get over it,” Taylor told CBS News.
But according to one former female Bloomberg executive, who cited a confidentiality agreement in declining to speak on the record, Mike Bloomberg regularly made crass sexual jokes and demeaning comments about women in the workplace after he returned to the company from his stint as mayor of New York City.
“It’s the way he talked, and everyone knows that,” this person told Business Insider. “As a woman, I didn’t push back, and I didn’t say, ‘Don’t do that.’ Many of us just tolerated it. And I’m really ashamed about that.”
“I will not have that fat woman representing my company.”
This former employee’s more recent experience with Bloomberg is consistent with a longstanding record of allegations of crude comments stretching back decades, as Business Insider reported last November in an investigation into the history of discrimination complaints lodged in court against Bloomberg LP. Notably, Bloomberg has faced intense criticism for allegedly telling a newly pregnant employee to “kill it,” drawing ire from Elizabeth Warren in last week’s South Carolina debate. (Bloomberg unequivocally denies making the remark.)
Another former employee, who worked for Bloomberg in the 1990s, told Business Insider that Mike Bloomberg once directed derogatory remarks — and discriminatory conduct — at a woman that Bloomberg’s campaign is now holding up as an example of his support for women in the workplace. In a campaign ad that aired during the South Carolina presidential debate called “Championing Women in the Workplace,” a 25-year veteran of Bloomberg LP named Maggie Berry says of Bloomberg, “Mike supports women, he promotes women, he respects women.”
According to this former Bloomberg employee, in the 1990s Berry was proposed as a candidate for a promotion into a job that required interacting with clients. According to the source, Bloomberg dismissed the idea based on Berry’s physical appearance, saying, “I will not have that fat woman representing my company.” He ultimately hired a man for the job, the former Bloomberg employee said.
Reached for comment, Berry defended her boss. “I’ve been with Bloomberg for 25 years, almost exclusively in client-facing roles,” she said. “From my earliest days at the company, it was Mike himself who encouraged me to take a role in sales where you’re constantly interacting with clients. Having Mike’s backing and support has allowed me, and many other women at Bloomberg, to progress into management positions overseeing a significant part of our business.”
A source says Mike Bloomberg gave demeaning nicknames — including “dogface” and “Stopatruckski” — to employees he found unattractive
The same former employee recounted other instances of frat-house behavior that she observed while working in the 1990s in the company’s open-plan office, where it was difficult to avoid hearing her neighbors. Bloomberg and other top male colleagues, she said, would call out “SFU” as a code when certain women walked by — to make clear they thought the woman was “short, fat, and ugly,” the former employee said. Bloomberg developed nicknames for women he found unattractive, the former employee said, calling one woman “dogface” behind her back and another woman “Stopatruckski” — which rhymed with her last name — in reference to her weight. Once, while describing a female higher-up at the company, Bloomberg remarked, “Don’t let the lesbian get you down!”
In a statement, a Bloomberg LP spokesperson said the company “strongly supports a culture that treats all employees with dignity and respect, and enforces that culture through clear policies and practices. Our diversity and inclusion efforts are designed to foster a culture where thousands of people are proud to work every day. It’s also why Bloomberg is consistently ranked at the top of surveys about inclusive workplaces, and why we’ve been rated the top company for career growth opportunities in the US.”
Not everyone Business Insider spoke to was critical of Bloomberg’s attitudes. Jon Friedman, who covered Wall Street at Bloomberg News from 1993 to 1999, said that many employees back then viewed Mike Bloomberg not as a vulgarian, but as a symbol of the hypercompetitive Wall Street culture that he actively tried to promote within his company. He believed Michael Bloomberg didn’t intend to hurt people’s feelings, but acknowledged that employees could have found his comments upsetting.
“It was just crass guy talk, which isn’t appropriate and I guess people would be made to feel uncomfortable,” another former employee said, adding that she never felt harassed by Mike Bloomberg and that his comments struck her as more goofy than demeaning.
“I was aware, some of the guys would make jokes about things and use analogies about women or whores that weren’t really appropriate. I suppose in a sense maybe he created the culture that allowed that, but it really was no different than a trading floor. It’s what he grew up on, but that’s different from the kind of crap that went on at [Harvey Weinstein’s former company] Miramax, and Mike’s not like that at all.”
The Michael Bloomberg 2020 presidential campaign declined to directly answer questions regarding this story. But in a statement provided to Business Insider by a Bloomberg LP spokesperson, Bloomberg’s campaign chair Patricia Harris defended the company’s record on women.
“In nearly three decades at Bloomberg LP and working with Mike, I’ve seen women grow professionally, earn more opportunities, and get promoted as they also raised families,” Harris said. “In an organization of more than 20,000 people, there are going to be issues — but Mike has never tolerated any kind of discrimination or harassment. Anyone who works hard and performs well is going to be rewarded, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or anything else.”
“Never underestimate how scary it has been for so many women.”
In the course of reporting this story, Business Insider interviewed more than three dozen people who currently work at or once worked at Bloomberg. At least 12 said they had signed agreements with the company that limited their ability to speak freely. Almost no one agreed to speak on the record, and some vividly described a powerful sense of fear at risking the ire of Mike Bloomberg or the dozens of loyal aides in his employ.
Last month, a former Bloomberg LP employee sent an unsolicited email to Business Insider alleging that she had experienced sexual harassment at the company. The woman agreed to share her story anonymously, and after a Business Insider reporter spent two weeks investigating her allegation — including obtaining contemporaneous documentary evidence that Mike Bloomberg had been personally informed of her complaint — we presented the reporting to Bloomberg LP for comment. The company replied that it had “investigated this complaint thoroughly” at the time and was “unable to corroborate the specific allegations.”
Twenty-seven hours after we first informed Bloomberg LP about her allegations, the woman contacted Business Insider and withdrew her cooperation, saying she had been advised to retract her story. Business Insider is honoring her request not to report details that she had previously provided for publication.
In a statement, a Bloomberg spokesperson said the company played no role in the source’s reversal. “We did not contact the former employee upon hearing from Business Insider and have not been in communication with her. We would never pressure someone to retract their story.”
A different former employee, explaining her own decision not to speak for the record about her experiences, said she did feel pressure not to come forward. “The full force of the Bloomberg machine, when it’s directed at you, is pretty intense,” the former employee said. “Never underestimate how scary it has been for so many women.”
Bloomberg has faced repeated criticism for his company’s use of non-disclosure agreements, legal contracts that prevent employees from talking about their experience, in cases where the company and the employee have reached a financial settlement over allegations of harassment or discrimination.
On the Nevada debate stage, Warren asked how many non-disclosure agreements his company had signed with employees, and if he would release them from those agreements to talk about their experience.
Bloomberg declined, describing the NDAs as “agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet, and that’s up to them. They signed those agreements, and we’ll live with it.”
Later, his campaign announced that the company would stop using confidentiality agreements to resolve sexual harassment claims, and would release three women who had made specific allegations against Mike Bloomberg from their NDAs. Warren responded that three releases were not good enough, calling for a blanket release.
Two women who signed NDAs with Bloomberg tell Business Insider that the agreements weren’t voluntary, and that they wish they could speak out
One lawyer who has represented several women in disputes with Bloomberg initially agreed to speak to Business Insider on the record, but backed out on the advice of his internal counsel because of fears that his comments might violate the non-disparagement agreements that some of his clients have signed.
Two women who signed such agreements — and who are not among the three that Bloomberg has agreed to release — told Business Insider that their continued silence is not voluntary.
“NDAs are never signed by ‘two parties who wanted to keep it quiet,'” said one woman who signed an NDA with Bloomberg LP. “They are signed by women who are often broke and unemployed and lack the resources to press a case against a billionaire. We agree to stay silent not because we don’t want our side heard, but because we often need the money to help repair the massive financial damage incurred after unexpectedly losing a job and spending thousands on lawyers in hopes of winning some of it back.”
Another former Bloomberg employee who signed an NDA said, “I would gladly talk on the record about this, but I can’t. I’ve been waiting for a long time to have my experience come out, but also at the same time living with fear about talking about it. And it doesn’t seem fair that I went through this thing — this is my life — and I’m not even allowed to share what happened to me. This is why it would suck if Bloomberg was elected president. He silenced all these people. We don’t know half the things that have gone on at his company.”
“We offer severance agreements, which contain routine confidentiality provisions, to employees whose employment is coming to an end for a variety of reasons,” a Bloomberg spokesperson said. “Whether they choose to accept the offer is entirely up to them.”
Feeling constantly watched, and constantly berated
The Bloomberg News newsroom, which was staffed with journalists often focused on uncovering misconduct within some of America’s most powerful corporations, was driven by fear, humiliation, and abusive behavior, according to dozens of current and former employees who worked there.
“No matter how good you are, you are constantly told you are not doing enough or you’re not doing good or you have to work harder,” a former Bloomberg News employee told Business Insider. “And you’re always afraid that if you are having a hard time and tell that to someone, that person is going to report it somewhere. It’s that feeling of constantly being watched, and especially for women, being constantly berated.”
“One of the most unpleasant aspects of Mike’s culture is there must be blame,” said another person. Every time something goes wrong, the source said, “Somebody must be vaporized.”
Other Bloomberg News veterans interviewed by Business Insider spoke highly of the company. One former employee acknowledged that while Bloomberg News once embraced the culture of Wall Street, that was on the decline. Another admitted that there were unpleasant aspects to the culture but said that leadership was continually trying to make things better. Others said they were happy with their experience, particularly the benefits they received, and felt that Bloomberg was a positive place to work.
“There was good and there was bad,” observed one former employee. “Bloomberg pays very well, but that comes at a real price — and that price is absolute loyalty to the job.”
A newsroom “tyrant”
From the early days, Bloomberg’s newsroom was run with an iron fist by Matthew Winkler, who co-founded Bloomberg News and served as its editor-in-chief from 1990 to 2015, when he stepped aside to become editor-in-chief emeritus. He continues to write a column. A notorious stickler for process and accuracy, Winkler oversaw Bloomberg News’ rise into a global force in journalism, with bureaus around the world and thousands of reporters. But more than a dozen former employees say Winkler, particularly in the early days, screamed frequently. Many said that set the tone for a wider newsroom ruled by fear and aggression, and that tolerated bullies.
Gawker described Winkler in 2008 as a “notorious tyrant, wanker, and stickler for detail,” who “threw a legendary tantrum while firing a reporter.” The website reported extensively over the years on Winkler’s “titanic” temper and habit of yelling at subordinates.
Business Insider has heard similar accusations from former employees who say they personally experienced Winkler’s rages.
“He could be very abusive,” a former Bloomberg employee told Business Insider, recalling a conference call from New York to the DC bureau in which Winkler screamed insults through the phone.
Another employee recalled being told that Winkler, while yelling at someone, grabbed the man’s knees to make his point. That person filed a complaint against Winkler in response, this employee was told.
Several former employees said the abusive culture was exacerbated by seemingly endless rounds of sudden layoffs and reorganizations, leaving staffers in terror of losing their jobs without warning. More than one former employee described the atmosphere in Darwinian terms.
“It’s a bizarrely unhappy place,” a former employee observed. “There’s just so many people who are terrified of losing their jobs. It is cult-like in the expectation that you will devote every molecule of your existence, and being, and hours, and time to this company. You will work your ass off.”
Another former employee who worked on the headlines desk, which is responsible for blasting out breaking news to Bloomberg subscribers the moment it happens, told Business Insider that one of her managers once threw a wad of wet paper towel at her head. Another time, in 2014, she said, a different manager who was displeased that she left her station to ask him a question chased her back to her desk and, after she sat down, put his finger to her head in a gun-like shape and said, “Don’t ever do that again.” When she went to human resources to report the incident, she said, the HR staffer asked her what she had done to provoke him. She ultimately resigned from the company.
“The cult-like experience of people screaming if you made a mistake, and this zero-tolerance expectation of something that’s not even human, and this two-tiered society where some people get a pass and others were screamed at — it was just a bizarre climate and I think it was absolutely deliberately done,” the former employee told Business Insider. “I have been in a lot of jobs and I have never seen anything like that.”
Winkler did not respond directly to a request for comment on the specific allegations made by former Bloomberg News employees. Instead, he released a statement via a Bloomberg LP spokesperson: “I couldn’t be prouder of founding and running Bloomberg News, where today you can find hundreds of reporters and editors who started families and continue to have long-lasting and fulfilling careers at Bloomberg.”
A volatile temper and a penchant for massages
Few names came up in Business Insider’s conversations with employees more than Al Hunt, Bloomberg News’ former Washington editor and one of the organization’s most visible faces in politics until his 2018 exit. Hunt’s behavior was at issue in numerous human resources complaints and at least two financial settlements, according to people with knowledge of the complaints and settlements.
Hunt joined Bloomberg in 2005, while Mike Bloomberg was New York City mayor, after nearly four decades as a reporter and editor at the Wall Street Journal. He was wooed by Winkler at the prior year’s Democratic National Convention, according to The New York Times. For seven years, Hunt ran Bloomberg News’ Washington bureau, holding a key voice over what stories were published and whose careers advanced. In 2012, for reasons that are unclear, Hunt moved from his role overseeing editorial operations in Washington to become a columnist for Bloomberg’s opinion section, where he remained until 2018.
During his time at Bloomberg News, Hunt developed a reputation among some employees for a volatile temper and a propensity to touch women in ways that, to some, felt too intimate. Several former employees said Hunt was notorious for giving women who worked for him massages without bothering to ask first.
He would frequently walk up behind a female co-worker seated at her desk and begin rubbing her shoulders without warning, according to seven people who saw him do it. “I remember seeing his hands move pretty rapidly between her shoulders and her arms,” one former employee recalled. “His hands were all over her.”
“Young female reporters were just shiny new toys for him.”
In a statement, Hunt said he never inappropriately touched any employees and defended his record of advancing the careers of female journalists who worked under him. “There never was a propensity to touch women in inappropriate ways. The shoulder rub charge is wrong,” Hunt said. “There was one incident in which I was talking to a group of political reporters and apparently put my hand on the shoulder of a reporter sitting in front of me; NOT rubbing her neck, putting my hand on shoulder while talking to other reporters. She spoke to HR about it, who looked into it, spoke with reporters present and concluded there was nothing inappropriate and thus no need to inform me. I only was told about this several years later.”
Hunt’s alleged touching wasn’t limited to massages, former co-workers said. One time he reached out to hold a female employee’s hand, according to a person who witnessed the event. When she thrust it into her pocket to remove it from his reach, the person said, Hunt simply slipped his hand into her pocket as well and held it there. Another time he slapped a woman’s bare thighs several times and dared her to tell human resources, according to a person who witnessed it. In another case, he put his hand on a woman’s shoulder and left it there, according to the person.
“Al Hunt talked a progressive game of hiring more women and promoting them, but it was mere virtue-signalling,” said one former Bloomberg employee. “Young female reporters were just shiny new toys for him.”
Hunt could also make inappropriate comments, former co-workers said. He once took note of a reporter’s matching manicure and pedicure and asked, with a smirk, if everything else matched, according to one witness.
Hunt was known to favor a small group of women that some employees took to calling “Al’s Angels.” Membership in the group often meant getting plumb reporting assignments, invitations to key meetings with DC power brokers, and in at least some cases, career advancement, according to six people who say they witnessed what they described as favoritism. In other cases, when Hunt still had oversight of compensation for the bureau, it could mean getting a bigger bonus, one person said.
One former employee believed that Hunt expected the women to dress provocatively. Once, after asking a woman to do a task for him, this employee was told that Hunt said, “I just love watching her run in heels.”
An employee told Business Insider that they often witnessed Hunt call a woman to his desk, caress her forearms, and, after she walked away, comment, “I have such a crush on her.”
In his statement, Hunt denied making both remarks, calling them “made-up stories.”
“Can you seriously suggest these were shiny toys that achieved enormous success at Bloomberg and later at other places?” he said. “To call them angels is insulting.”
“I think they would put up with it in the interest of placating him,” one person told Business Insider. “I mean, it happened all the time, he was a total creep. It was him preying on people and using his authority.”
The flip-side of Hunt’s overly solicitous affections, sources said, was a brutal temper and bullying demeanor.
More than a dozen former employees described Hunt’s volatile temper, saying he would frequently yell at underlings. One former employee described a time Hunt was shouting at an assistant because he couldn’t find his glasses. Eventually, she told him they were on his head. “He could be abusive to people working for him and very, very demanding and not always kind about it,” that person said.
In one case, Hunt threw a stapler at one of his assistants, two of the people said. The people didn’t witness the incident, but one of them recalls talking about it with the stapler’s target, who moved on from the Hunt post and now works in Bloomberg’s television operation. The target declined to comment when contacted by Business Insider.
One woman who worked under Hunt in the Washington bureau told Business Insider that he subjected her to extreme verbal abuse, including screaming, berating, and intimidation tactics like grabbing her arm or looming over her desk. After one tirade, the shocked employee recalled, he told her “you are going to learn it pays to be an asshole.”
The former employee said Hunt made his authority clear with frequent veiled threats about her job. She said she repeatedly raised concerns about Hunt’s conduct to her superiors and to human resources, going so far as to send human resources an email, reviewed by Business Insider, recounting her concerns. She said the company did nothing to intervene. She eventually quit.
“I am certain I never threw a stapler at a reporter,” Hunt said. “It is perfectly possible that I did insist — you say yell — to an assistant to find my glasses when they were perched on my head. That has happened at home with my kids, so it’s credible.”
Sources say Bloomberg LP made settlement payments to two women who complained about Hunt
Business Insider has learned of at least two instances in which Bloomberg agreed to pay women to settle potential claims over Hunt’s conduct. Business Insider was unable to confirm the specific details of the settlements.
“I raised Al Hunt’s treatment of female employees to senior managers in the company on several occasions, after repeatedly witnessing its impact,” said one former Bloomberg editor. “I was never informed of any action.”
Hunt continued at Bloomberg until 2018, well past the time that Mike Bloomberg had returned from running New York City.
In a statement, a Bloomberg LP spokesperson did not deny any of the claims regarding Hunt: “We take complaints from our employees seriously and investigate them thoroughly. Looking back at the history of the company, there are certainly instances where we wish we had handled some complaints differently. We’re always striving to do better, and we are constantly improving policies and procedures to ensure an inclusive workplace.”
Not all of Hunt’s former co-workers described him as abusive or inappropriate. Several described him simply as a 60-something man accustomed to working in a newsroom under the norms of a bygone era. These people point out that the accusations against Hunt do not rise to the level of the sort of sexually predatory behavior that Charlie Rose and Harvey Weinstein have been accused of. One person said that accusing Hunt of giving “massages” was misleading, saying that he would simply place his hands on people’s shoulders.
“Al Hunt is both a mentor and a friend,” Julianna Goldman, a former White House correspondent at Bloomberg and former correspondent at CBS News, told Business Insider. “He has been a champion and advocate for me throughout my career as well as countless other women who have excelled professionally across some of the most prestigious news organizations. I never felt he treated me inappropriately.”
Another woman who worked under Hunt supported Goldman’s account, describing Hunt as supportive.
“Unquestionably I could be demanding,” Hunt said. “There were displays of temper and demands and a couple assistants who left unhappy; again [there] were NO instances of inappropriate touching, etc. It was a big bureau and [I] suspect there were some unhappy people, four or five journalists were managed out over those years. But if the climate was anything like you describe, we never would have been able to hire such really talented reporters, many women; almost without exception they stayed and flourished.”
A warning letter
At least three young women of color who worked at Bloomberg LP found their overall experience at the company so dispiriting that they helped draft a letter to their alma mater, a well-known historically black college, urging it to cease cooperating in Bloomberg LP’s recruitment efforts. Business Insider obtained a copy of the letter, which described Bloomberg LP as a “toxic and demoralizing system.” It was sent in 2019 to the school’s president and to its director of career planning and development. Business Insider has agreed not to name the school in order to protect the author’s identity.
The letter was signed by a graduate of the school, who helped recruit for Bloomberg before leaving the company. She did not respond to requests for comment. But it was drafted with the help of two other alumnae of the same school who worked at Bloomberg.
“This organization does not have people of color sitting on their management committee, or in visible senior leadership roles, and the ones that do have direct reports have acted in irrepressible ways towards young women of color,” the letter reads. “The experiences shared with me range from being solicited for sexual favors to get ahead, to young women in their first year of work taking medical leave based on their severe emotional and mental stress experienced at the organization. Bloomberg LP will spend money investing in unconscious bias conversations but fail to acknowledge the conscious decision-making had by a select few that continue to marginalize people at the company.”
One of the women who helped draft the letter, who no longer works at Bloomberg, said she was moved to warn the school because Bloomberg was a frequent participant in campus career fairs, and she worried that the company was not a welcoming environment for graduates.
“They definitely don’t know how to support people of color,” this person said. “They want diverse people so they can have it on paper, but once those people get there, there’s no support.”
A person of color who currently works at Bloomberg told Business Insider that her colleagues and supervisor have made condescending and belittling comments to her and exhibit a lack of awareness about how to support employees of color. She said more people of color should be at the table for internal discussions about inclusion, retention, and bias in the workplace.
“I would say from my experience some people are aware of what they call a diversity issue [at Bloomberg LP] but, overall, as a company, I don’t think things are getting better,” the current employee told Business Insider. “If they were trying to get better, it’s because of [Mike Bloomberg] running for election and wanting to please people, but I wouldn’t say they are getting better.”
“I believe that they have convinced themselves that they want to do better,” the letter says of Bloomberg LP. “However, unless they do the real work necessary to changing the toxic aspects of their culture, then they shouldn’t be able to continue to mistreat and attempt to break [female graduates]. Please strongly consider removing them as a partner, allowing them to visit our campus, having them speak in our classrooms or host events with our students. It is truly the only way to guarantee that another [female graduate] will not have to endure this experience immediately after college. In addition, it serves as a reminder that we protect our own.”
The author of the letter declined to comment. A Bloomberg LP spokesperson said the company had never seen the letter and couldn’t comment on it, but that in 2015 Mike Bloomberg launched a “company-wide review of the company’s diversity landscape and commissioned a company-wide effort to promote equality across the business, resulting in the hiring of the company’s first Chief Diversity Officer later that year.” These efforts pre-date Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, the spokesperson said, adding “we are dedicated to attracting, hiring, retaining, and advancing top diverse talent at Bloomberg, globally.
“By failing to signal that some of the behavior was unacceptable, they greenlighted more abuse.”
Perhaps the most notorious former Bloomberg News employee to face consequences for his treatment of women was working elsewhere when the axe fell: Mark Halperin was fired by NBC News in 2017 after numerous women came forward to CNN with accusations of unwanted touching, sexual comments, and physical assault — including approaching a seated colleague from behind and pressing his penis against her shoulder.
Before allegations of Halperin’s sexual predation became widely known, he was regarded privately by some in the Bloomberg News newsroom — where he oversaw a political vertical and daily television show from 2014 to 2017 — as a bully who would regularly scream at colleagues. Halperin did not respond to a request from Business Insider for comment, and Bloomberg LP said its human resources department never received any harassment complaints about Halperin during his tenure there.
Kathy Kiely, a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism who was the Washington news director for Bloomberg politics between 2015 and 2016, told Business Insider that senior leadership did nothing to reign in Halperin’s behavior.
“I have personal experience of Mark’s abusive behavior,” Kiely said, referring to the bullying she says she experienced. “I know that other people in the company knew about it and, as far as I know, he was never called out for it and it was tolerated, and I think that’s unacceptable. There should have been no surprise that it later came out that he was involved with sexual harassment, because sexual harassment is a form of bullying.”
Kiely said Halperin’s behavior was obvious to many in the newsroom, citing abusive emails he wrote to her that he cc’d multiple people on as well as conversations about him that she had with higher-ups. The fact that Halperin was able to dominate colleagues with impunity, Kiely said, only gave other abusers more confidence and convinced their victims of the futility of speaking up.
“If you tolerate abusive behavior, you, as a company, are signalling to abusers they have carte blanche,” Kiely said, “And to the victims of that abuse, past and future, that they just have to put up and shut up because the abusers are so much more important than the people they are abusing.”
“By failing to signal that some of the behavior was unacceptable, they greenlighted more abuse. And it has a chilling effect on victims speaking out because if they think, ‘Well nothing is going to happen except I’m going to get more abuse,’ then why would anybody speak out?”
Editor’s note: Dakin Campbell was previously a reporter for Bloomberg News.