Damning accusations of “consistent and systematic” sexual harassment by some of AMP’s staff have been aired using parliamentary privilege.
Damning accusations of “consistent and systematic” sexual harassment by some of AMP’s staff have been aired using parliamentary privilege.

Explosive claim about predatory behaviour at AMP

Senator Deborah O'Neill has invoked parliamentary privilege to raise damning accusations by another former female AMP employee, alleging predatory sexual behaviour by some of the wealth group's staff and "consistent and systematic" harassment.

The Labor Senator raised the explosive matter in a speech in parliament on Tuesday night, saying AMP had tried to silence the former employee.

Reading from the former AMP employee's account of events, Senator O'Neill said:

"Through the last eight weeks I have relived my experience and it is with utter dismay that I see the AMP system remains as it ever was. As a junior female employee, I endured consistent and systematic harassment at AMP from men at the peer level to executive level.

"The harassment I suffered ranged from receiving sexually explicit photos and emails expressing a desire to have sex with me, constant and public propositioning, including in front of some of the company's largest clients, physical harassment, including being touched repeatedly by a leadership team member at the office, a senior colleague groping me off site and another forcing himself on me by rubbing his genitals against me at a work function."

The employee's identity was not disclosed in parliament.

Labor Senator Deborah O'Neill. Picture: Adam Yip
Labor Senator Deborah O'Neill. Picture: Adam Yip

An AMP spokesman said the behaviour and conduct described in the speech "is distressing and unacceptable" to the company.

"AMP takes any complaint or issue raised seriously, including from employees who have now left the organisation. This can be done anonymously through our whistleblowing service or through our people and culture process," he added.

"We are in contact with Senator O'Neill's office, and would welcome an opportunity to meet or engage with the former employee referred to by the Senator to offer our support to her."

The latest accusations against male staff at AMP follow the resignations on Monday of AMP chairman David Murray and board member John Fraser, after investors lashed out at the company's handling of a 2017 sexual harassment complaint against executive Boe Pahari.

On Tuesday, Senator O'Neill recounted the former AMP employee's time at the group, including allegations her direct manager threatened to end her career if she didn't cede to his "sexual wishes" while alone on a work trip.

"After speaking up, I was bullied, victimised and ultimately silenced. My time at AMP has destroyed my life and it's taken everything that I have to rebuild parts of it, yet my life will never be the same again," Ms O'Neill read in parliament.

"The perpetrators, including those who swept me under the rug, have gone on to thrive. During my tenure, I raised formal complaints with the company, including via external legal representatives, but none of these were resolved safely, let alone satisfactorily.

"Two of these cases were escalated. But in one instance the perpetrator was given a warning and allowed to remain. He also harassed another colleague, who left the industry as a result of this and sustained sexual harassment by two managers. The other, my manager, was repeatedly promoted."

Senator ONeill urged companies that the behaviour highlighted had to stop.

"Australia is better than this. Come on, corporate Australia, surely you can destroy this cultural stain on our nation," she said.

The former AMP employee's statement referred to by Senator O'Neill detailed how her complaint was treated by the company.

"In my case an internal lawyer undertook this so-called independent work. Over the next several months I was placed on medical leave and was directly discouraged from lodging a worker's compensation request by a member of the executive leadership team … I was explicitly and repeatedly told that I was not allowed to speak to anyone about the matter. The friend and colleague that I asked to accompany me to the first meeting was told they would be terminated if they spoke a word about the matter and that they were not allowed to accompany me again.

"The man on the leadership team who was well known for his uninvited caressing of younger female employees suddenly stepped in to manage the investigation and subsequent communication with me. I was treated like a criminal."

The former employee went on to say there were some "wonderful leaders" at AMP, who focused on a strong and inclusive culture.

"This was certainly the case in one part of the business, where such behaviour had been systematically eradicated over recent years. However, it only takes a handful of rotten apples to spoil the barrel and, in this case, it's obvious who those rotten apples are," Senator O'Neill read out.

AMP chief executive Francesco De Ferrari - who took the reins in late 2018 - has identified fixing the company's culture as his top priority in the final months of 2020.

This week's AMP board changes related to the promotion in July of Mr Pahari to lead AMP Capital, despite the complaint and penalty for his actions which related to a former subordinate. AMP's decision was reversed on Monday after investors threatened to call an extraordinary meeting and seek board scalps, with Mr Pahari being demoted to his former role within the division.

In early August, AMP Australia boss Alex Wade parted ways with the group suddenly, which was linked to inappropriate conduct and sending lewd photos to a female colleague. He joined AMP in early 2019 and worked with Mr De Ferrari previously at Credit Suisse.

The Australian

 

Originally published as Explosive claim about predatory behaviour at AMP



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