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April 18, 2024
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Crypto party with sushi models? London’s toxic culture lives on


If you thought seeing scantily clad women serving food to finance bros at wild parties was a thing of the ’90s, think again.

Just last week, leaked photos revealed that a cryptocurrency company Copper, chaired by British politician Lord Philip Hammond, hosted a private London bash in March where guests were served sushi off the bodies of half-naked models.

It turns out that not even a global pandemic, lockdowns, and new levels of respect for colleagues’ personal space (remember the elbow bump?) were enough to kill Wolf of Wall Street-era antics.

In the City of London, at least, toxic culture is still thriving—and Copper’s hedonistic soirée is only the most recent evidence. 

Last month, the U.K. parliament released its much-anticipated report into Sexism in the City

More than 40 women in finance spoke to MPs on the Treasury committee about their experience during the inquiry to determine how much meaningful progress City employers had made since the last investigation in 2018. The answer appears to be “not much.”

Aviva CEO Amanda Blanc told MPs that harassment in financial services—which employs more than 2.5 million people—is still worse than in any other industry.

Citing data collected by the not-for-profit organization Speak Out Revolution and the advocacy group Can’t Buy My Silence, the report says that “45% of workers working in the financial services industry have encountered sexual harassment in the workplace.”

“The evidence we took was shocking, especially the extent of misogyny, sexual harassment and bullying, up to and including serious sexual assault and rape,” the report noted, adding that the use of victim-silencing NDAs is still prevalent.

Last week, the Guardian reported that the CBI has used up to 10 gagging clauses to prevent staff from discussing their experiences of sexual misconduct and bullying at the organization in the last year alone. 

And last month three more women asked to join a sexual misconduct lawsuit against one of Britain’s best-known hedge fund managers, Crispin Odey, and his firm Odey Asset Management. (Odey has denied all allegations.)

Ongoing abuse is one of the reasons why Blanc, who became the blue-chip company’s first female chief executive in 2020, is now personally signing off on white male hires as part of the firm’s drive to improve diversity.

“My belief is if you have more women in senior management roles, this behavior will go away,” she explained. In Europe, 44% of financial services directors appointed in 2023 were female; in Britain, the figure dropped to 33%. Copper, meanwhile, has an all-male board

In the aftermath of the sushi incident, Copper told the Financial Times that it is launching an internal probe into its event approval process. (Copper did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment.) 

But really, the entire finance industry needs to check itself. Its CEOs have been among the loudest supporters of in-office mandates; it’s up to them to ensure that the toxic culture of the past doesn’t return to the office as well. 

More news below.

Orianna Rosa Royle
@oriannarosa
orianna.royle@fortune.com

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This is the web version of Fortune CEO Weekly Europe, a newsletter on the companies and industry leaders shaping every facet of business in Europe. Sign up for free.





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