Michael Larson, responsible for the management of the majority of billionaire Bill Gates' massive fortune, has been accused of workplace misconduct. Larson, who runs Cascade Investments, had created a "culture of fear" in his workplace where employee abuses had occurred.
According to an extensive investigation by New York Times, Larson had allegedly showed nude photos of women to colleagues, judged female employees by attractiveness, made sexually inappropriate comments on several occasions, made racist remarks, and bullied others. He even threatened to hurt the stock price of a company a female employee said she was joining after leaving Cascade.
Larson's company's function is to manage the fortune of Bill Gates and Melinda French who built an empire on global philanthropy. Larson invested Gates' money in hotels, stocks, bonds, farm land and even a bowling alley. This enabled Gates' fortune to soar from less than $10 billion to around $130 billion.
As many as six people, including four of Cascade employees, had complained to Gates about Larson's conduct. According to NYT, several complained to French too. It added that Cascade made payments to at least seven people who knew or witnessed Larson's behavior. In exchange, they agreed to never speak about their firm at the time. The perception of Gates' support allowed Larson to maintain a culture of fear inside Cascade's offices, stated the report.
Larson's spokesperson denied some but not instances of his misconduct to the daily. "During his tenure, Mr. Larson has managed over 380 people, and there have been fewer than five complaints related to him in total. Any complaint was investigated and treated seriously and fully examined, and none merited Mr. Larson's dismissal," said the spokesperson.
Gates' spokesperson said that Bill and Melinda Gates Investments has robust policies to deal with complaints at the workplace. BMGI's name is sometimes used interchangeably with Cascade. "BMGI takes all complaints seriously and seeks to address them effectively to guarantee a safe and respectful workplace. BMGI does not tolerate inappropriate behavior," said a spokesperson adding that "any issue raised over the company's history has been taken seriously and resolved appropriately."
A spokeswoman for French, said, "Melinda unequivocally condemns disrespectful and inappropriate conduct in the workplace. She was unaware of most of these allegations given her lack of ownership of and control over BMGI."
Larson told the daily, "Calling BMGI a toxic work environment is unfair to the 160 professionals who make up our team and our culture."
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