NGKF slapped with sexual harassment suit

Los Angeles /
Apr.April 10, 2017 04:30 PM

Updated, May 8, 2017, 10:40 p.m.: A former Newmark Grubb Knight Frank employee under the alias “Jane Doe” has filed a massive lawsuit against the brokerage, which alleges that she was repeatedly sexually harassed, ogled and even stalked by senior executives in its Los Angeles offices.

Represented by L.A. celebrity attorney Mark Geragos — famous for representing Michael Jackson in the early stages of the child molestation case brought against him — and his partner Ben Meiselas, Doe filed eight complaints for damages against NGKF, the firm’s former managing director Michael Arnold and two other executives at the firm.

The allegations include two charges of sexual harassment, sex discrimination and wrongful termination, the Daily Mail first reported.

The lawsuit comes at a time when the brokerage firm is making a play on Wall Street. It submitted initial documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year for an initial public offering, The Real Deal reported.

While the suit may not slow down its push for an IPO, it does paint a grim picture of the firm’s L.A. operation and its boozy company culture. The complaint, which was reviewed by TRD, includes five counts against Arnold, alleging he repeatedly made unwanted advances towards and sexual comments to Jane Doe, both at the office and at a business event where Doe felt ogled by an intoxicated Arnold, as well as at a business conference.

The alleged misconduct occurred beyond the confines of NGKF’s offices. It continued when Doe and Arnold attended ICSC in Las Vegas, according to the complaint.

The firm’s senior management viewed the convention as “an opportunity to act recklessly while staying in Las Vegas on the company dime,” the complaint reads, adding that cocaine was a integral part of the conference experience.

“[Doe] learned that illegal drug use by NGKF executives was so rampant at corporate events like ICSC that junior employees who would ordinarily have chosen to drive to such events would often fly instead for fear that if they took their own cars, senior NGKF managers would pressure them to transport large amounts of cocaine across state lines,” the complaint reads.

As the sexual misconduct allegedly escalated, Doe is said to have brought Arnold’s behavior to the attention of John Picard, NGKF’s director of operations, but he allegedly dismissed her complaints and transferred her to the firm’s Downtown office.

Picard is named in the suit, as is David G. Kutzer, who Doe claims also sexually harassed her when she moved to the DTLA office.

Sources first told TRD Arnold had left NGKF without notice in November 2016. NGKF did not return requests for comment on the lawsuit.

Geragos made headlines representing Chris Brown — when the musician plead guilty to the assault of his then-girlfriend Rihanna — and convicted wife-murderer Scott Peterson. [DM]Subrina Hudson 

Correction: This article has been updated from a previous version to clarify that only five of the eight counts mentioned were against Michael Arnold. The previous version incorrectly stated that the lawsuit described Arnold as intoxicated at multiple business events. Only a singular business event was described in which he was intoxicated. The story has also been updated to clarify that two different event locations — a business event and a conference — were described. 


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