Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul and former New York City mayor, has faced repeated allegations over the years that he used sexist language in speaking about and to female subordinates in his company.
The focus on the complaints comes as Bloomberg seeks the Democratic nod for president in the 2020 election, having announced his candidacy on November 24.
Over the past three decades, three women have cited Bloomberg’s alleged lewd language as helping to create a “frat-like” culture at his company, Bloomberg LP, ABC News reported on Monday, citing court records.
Bloomberg’s company, founded in 1981, now has 167 offices, annual revenue exceeding $10 billion, and some 20,000 employees.
The three complainants against Bloomberg himself were among 17 women who took legal action against the company as a whole in that period, accusing it of gender-based discrimination.
The complaints against Bloomberg included claims that he told coworkers, “I’d like to do that piece of meat,” and “I would DO you in a second,” ABC News said.
Donna Clancy, an attorney for three former employees, told ABC News that the problematic culture has continued since the complaints of the 1990s.
“We have investigated the company for the last four years, and the culture is such that women are not valued. In fact, they’re objectified, based upon the complaints that I’ve filed on behalf of three plaintiffs and the history that’s listed in those complaints,” Clancy said.
None of the 17 cases made it to trial, though three are still outstanding. Five were settled out of court and four were dismissed or withdrawn.
The Monday report drew a swift response from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another leading candidate for the Democratic presidential ticket, who called for Bloomberg to release the women who settled out of court from nondisclosure agreements that were part of the settlements.
“When women raise concerns like this we have to pay attention, we have to listen to them and if Michael Bloomberg has made comments like this than he has to answer for them,” Warren said on a campaign visit to Iowa. “I think NDAs are a way for people to hide bad things they’ve done, and I think that women should be able to speak.”
The concerns over Bloomberg’s language aren’t new, and played a part in his 2001 campaign for mayor.
One example, cited at the time, of Bloomberg’s widely known penchant for crude remarks about women was a 1990 gag gift from colleagues of a book containing such quotes of his.
The quotes allegedly include: “Make the customer think he’s getting laid when he’s getting [expletive],” and, “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdales.”
One woman, sales manager Sekiko Sakai, claimed in a 1997 lawsuit that Bloomberg had told her to terminate a pregnancy.
“He told me to ‘kill it’ in a serious monotone voice,” the woman said, according to a court filing. “I asked ‘What? What did you just say?’ He looked at me and repeated in a deliberate manner ‘kill it.'”
While he has not addressed many of the complaints directly, Bloomberg has vehemently denied ever asking Sakai to terminate a pregnancy.
A 2007 federal discrimination case against Bloomberg LP alleging systemic discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers was dismissed by a court in 2011.
Bloomberg’s campaign acknowledged the concerns this week, with campaign spokesperson Julie Wood telling the TV network, “Mike Bloomberg has supported and empowered women throughout his career — from appointing women to the very top positions in his mayoral administration to supporting women candidates for higher office to an industry-leading 26 weeks of paid family leave at his company. At the same time, Mike has come to see that some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong. He believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life.”
On Sunday, before the ABC News report, Bloomberg defended his company’s record.
“There will always be somebody that’s not happy, but we are — we do very well in terms of attracting men and women to come to work in the company, and the retention rate with both of them is good as I think any real company. So, I’m very proud of what we do,” he told a campaign gathering in North Carolina.