Meet the Lawyer Representing Wall Street’s #MeToo Men

Aug. 27, 2018

John Singer helps men fired over allegations of unwanted advances and other misconduct

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A few months ago, attorney John Singer was catching up with a childhood friend. He told her about a new crop of clients he was representing: men fired over allegations of unwanted advances and other misconduct.

“You’re on the wrong side of the issue,” the friend, Stacey Creem, told him, half joking. He laughed, she said.

For lawyers, a willingness to take on clients some find unsavory can be part of the job. Mr. Singer has waded into particularly controversial territory, helping men felled by the burgeoning #MeToo movement take on their former Wall Street employers. His approach, insisting his clients are the true victims, has helped earn some of the men unlikely victories.

Mr. Singer’s clients include Omeed Malik, a Bank of America Corp. managing director who lost his job in January after a woman at the bank said he made unwanted advances, and Harold Ford Jr. , who was ousted from Morgan Stanley last year after the bank learned of a similar claim from a nonemployee. He is also representing former D.E. Shaw Group managing director Dan Michalow, who was fired earlier this year following an investigation into alleged “abusive and offensive conduct.”

The three men were all eventually offered money or public statements that could help repair their reputations.

An outpouring of misconduct allegations against powerful men in a range of industries has led to a conundrum for their employers. Companies that don’t swiftly fire accused men risk being seen by the public and employees as soft on harassers. But if they do move quickly, the fired men can claim that they were terminated unfairly before a comprehensive investigation. That is creating an opening for employment lawyers like Mr. Singer.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he said of the #MeToo movement. “But from a myopic standpoint of what I do for a living, I think it has an underbelly to it, because I think that the firms are shooting people without doing a fulsome investigation.”

Bank of America and Morgan Stanley declined to comment on their investigations. A D.E. Shaw spokesman said the firm stands by its decision to fire Mr. Michalow.

Since last October, Mr. Singer has represented about a dozen fired men in finance and other industries, even as he juggles cases for women alleging harassment and discrimination. He advises his clients to fight back and threaten legal action instead of slinking away in shame. The fired men sometimes hire their own public-relations consultants, who work with Mr. Singer and other lawyers they retain to try to change the media narrative.

“The goal is to constantly force [former employers] to evaluate the economics of the case and their liability,” said Robert J. Girard II, a friend of Mr. Singer who runs a similar employment law practice.

Mr. Singer, 51, grew up in suburban Boston and attended Tufts University with Ms. Creem. She was struck by his memory—Mr. Singer easily kept track of the large cast of characters in their Middle Eastern history class she struggled to keep straight—and his confidence. Ms. Creem once brought Mr. Singer along to an overwhelmingly female modern-dance class, where he lifted a chair over his head and performed an elaborate routine.

Around 2003, Mr. Singer left Proskauer Rose LLP, a prominent law firm where he represented investment banks in employment disputes, to hang a shingle with a friend out of a small Midtown Manhattan office. Their firm, Singer Deutsch LLP, pitched its services to Wall Street professionals fighting with their employers—traders who claimed they were wrongly denied bonuses and brokers fighting citations on their records.

The small-firm life suited the gregarious Mr. Singer. Clients have come from his childhood sleep-away camp, a Patriots fan newsletter he ran until recently and the exclusive Norwood social club in downtown Manhattan. Novelist Mary Higgins Clark once hired Mr. Singer to handle a case against a broker she thought put her in an unsuitable investment.

Mr. Singer’s work for a range of Wall Street employees led to calls from men ousted for alleged misconduct. He declined to discuss the outcome of his recent cases.

Bank of America fired Mr. Malik in January after a young woman in the bank’s prime brokerage unit reported him for allegedly making unwanted advances. Mr. Malik has through lawyers denied he sexually harassed anyone.

The bank agreed to pay Mr. Malik a settlement a few months after Mr. Singer helped him file a $100 million defamation claim against the bank with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or Finra, according to people familiar with the matter. The amount was eight figures, one of the people said. Mr. Malik is now consulting for hedge funds and is “active once again on the speaking and investor conference scene,” his spokeswoman said.

D.E. Shaw said Mr. Michalow “engaged in gross violations of our standards and values” when it fired him earlier this year after several employees complained about his behavior and allegedly demeaning comments.

Mr. Michalow rejected a more than $10 million payment offer from the firm, according to people familiar with the matter. He hired Mr. Singer to represent him and has threatened to file a Finra complaint against D.E. Shaw.

“All I have asked is that the firm say publicly what has repeatedly been told to my representatives and to me privately—that my departure from the firm is not related to sexual misconduct,” Mr. Michalow said in a public letter. He says he could be difficult to work with.

When Morgan Stanley fired Mr. Ford in December, the bank said the reason was “conduct inconsistent with our values and in violation of our policies.” It had recently investigated a claim that he had made inappropriate advances toward a woman who didn’t work at the bank several years earlier, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

Mr. Ford said the incident “simply did not happen.” He hired Mr. Singer and other lawyers and threatened legal action. In January, Morgan Stanley issued a statement saying Mr. Ford wasn’t fired for “sexual misconduct.”

  • Article by Rachel Louise Ensign.
  • Rachael Levy also contributed to this article.
  • Photos: Kenneth Bachor/ The Wall Street Journal.
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