Exclusive-Citigroup probes senior IPO banker over bullying claims

By Thomson Reuters Mar 14, 2024 | 10:34 AM

By Echo Wang

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Citigroup is investigating workplace harassment allegations made by at least one employee against a senior U.S. banker who works on initial public offerings, four people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Edward Ruff, a managing director in Citi’s equity capital markets group in New York, has been on leave since January, according to the people, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

The bank is probing at least two instances of alleged abusive behavior by Ruff against several subordinates on the industrials, energy and power team he runs, they added.

One incident under investigation took place on the morning of Nov. 13, when Ruff shouted insults at members of his team at the end of a meeting on the fourth floor of Citigroup’s New York headquarters, according to seven people who were either present or were briefed by attendees.

Ruff was upset about two junior bankers not being in the room when the meeting started, two of the people said. Some of Ruff’s insults were directed at the entire team, they added.

Ruff did not respond to multiple attempts to reach him by phone, text and email.

A Citigroup spokesperson declined to provide details on any investigation into Ruff.

“While we will not comment on individual internal matters, simply put, where warranted, we exit employees who fail to meet our high standards of respectful treatment in our workplace,” the spokesperson said.

“We provide colleagues with a number of avenues to raise concerns in confidence, and when substantiated, we will take appropriate action, up to and including termination of employment,” the spokesperson added.

The complaints come in the wake of a push by Citi to change its culture. Jane Fraser took the helm of the bank in 2021 as the only female chief executive of a major U.S. bank with a pledge to bring empathy to Wall Street’s rough-and-tumble world.

“What we have found at Citi is that empathy is foundational to how we deliver for our clients and how we attract and retain talent,” she wrote in blog post in October 2021.

Citigroup declined to make Fraser available for an interview.

In the Nov. 13 incident, one of the junior bankers had dialed into the meeting on time, but arrived in person a couple of minutes after it started, two of the sources said. The other junior banker came in shortly after him, they added.

A senior banker heard Ruff shouting from his office and walked across the floor to intervene, five people said. That banker was James Maitland, another managing director, according to one of the people. Maitland did not respond to a request for comment.


A few days earlier, another employee — an analyst who had started at Citigroup in July last year after coming through a leadership program that cultivates diverse talent — told a superior that Ruff had insulted and intimidated him during a half-hour phone call, another source said.

Ruff told the analyst that he should not go to human resources with any complaint because the people there would not be his “friend”, the person added.

The analyst also told the superior that he and another junior banker were the only members of Ruff’s team asked to come to the office for work on Nov. 12, a Sunday, according to the source.

Ruff had complained to his team the day before about analysts not working on a Saturday, despite Citigroup having designated Saturdays as off limits when it comes to junior bankers working, three sources said.

The analyst took up an offer from Citigroup to move to a different team, four people familiar with the matter said.

Paul Abrahimzadeh and Russ Chong, co-heads of Citigroup’s North America equity capital markets business, told staff in January that Ruff was on a leave of absence, according to three sources. Abrahimzadeh and Chong did not give a reason for Ruff’s absence or its anticipated duration, and asked the staff not to speculate.

Citigroup is defending itself against a separate lawsuit that alleges workplace harassment in New York. Arith Lindsey, a managing director, has accused Citi of downplaying her complaints about a senior equities banker who she said subjected her to years of abuse including sexual advances and death threats.

Lindsey’s lawsuit in Manhattan federal court seeks damages for violations of New York state and city civil rights laws.

Citigroup has said it will defend against Lindsey’s claims, saying it does not tolerate abuse.

Andy Morton, Citi’s global head of markets, asked employees in November after news of the lawsuit surfaced to speak up if they see inappropriate behavior. “No colleague should ever be discriminated against or harassed,” he wrote in a memo to staff.

(Reporting by Echo Wang in New York; Editing by Greg Roumeliotis and Pravin Char)