Ex-Putnam Manager Alleges Glass Ceiling

January 18, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A former Putnam Investments asset manager has charged that the mutual fund company discriminates against women by limiting their career opportunities and unfairly demoted and then fired her.

In a lawsuit, Lisa Svensson said Putnam “created artificial barriers to the career development of women, maintained gender-biased attitudes and … engaged in a double standard of evaluation for male and female employees,” Reuters reported. Svensson, who managed Putnam’s Global Natural Resources fund until 2003, alleged that embattled former Chief Executive Lawrence Lasser “participated in and helped to sustain a corporate culture that fostered gender discrimination” and that the culture led to her downfall.

However, the Boston-based company, a key target in the wide-ranging mutual fund trading scandal that led to Lasser’s 2003 resignation, is firing back with assertions that Svensson’s dismissal was purely due to performance. “Lisa’s termination was not related to any sort of discrimination, but was solely based on job performance,” Putnam spokeswoman Sinead Martin, told Reuters “These allegations are without merit and we plan to defend against them vigorously.”

After repeated attempts at getting promoted to a managing director position, Svensson was demoted from the International Growth Equity Team to the Global Equity Research Department in March 2002, the complaint filed in a Boston federal court said. According to court documents, a manager told her two years earlier she had not been selected for the job because she lacked “that certain something” and had a “volatile nature.”

Putnam fired Svensson on Sept. 15, 2003, “when she refused to accept any further demotions,” according to court documents.

The sacking came months after she complained to her boss that Putnam was breaching its fiduciary duty to clients in the allocation of some brokerage commissions and that “it was only a matter of time until the SEC started to investigate,” the complaint said.