A crusading women’s-rights lawyer and the leader of the Hollywood-backed Time’s Up nonprofit is defending Goldman Sachs against a female whistleblower who claims she was fired for raising the alarm against sexual misconduct at the bank.
Roberta Kaplan, the chair of the Time’s Up governing board of directors and co-founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, entities devoted to helping sex-harassment victims, is representing the Wall Street banking giant and two of its top lawyers in a lawsuit brought against them last month by Marla Crawford, a former associate general counsel for Goldman.
In legal papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Crawford, 57, claims she was canned after she tried to seek help for a female employee who was allegedly sexually preyed upon by Darrell Cafasso, 44, the company’s global head of litigation.
Crawford’s Nov. 12 lawsuit against Goldman Sachs, Cafasso and general counsel Karen Seymour, 59, accuses them of “permitting a workplace where sexual harassment is covered up and the powerful are cloaked with immunity.”
When Crawford tried to speak up on behalf of the employee, identified as “Jane Doe” in court papers, “the result was a broadside attack on her performance and then terminating her after more than 10 years of exemplary performance,” court papers say.
Now critics say that Kaplan, 54, who has long been an advocate for gay and women’s rights, wants to sweep everything under the rug, calling for confidential arbitration — a legal maneuver roundly condemned by the Time’s Up organization.
Time’s Up has long battled against confidential agreements that allow “serial predators and harassers … to silence victims,” according to the group’s website.
“Both arbitration agreements and non-disclosure agreements have been used to keep harassment and violence in the dark,” said Fatima Goss Graves, a co-founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund and president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, in an interview with NPR last year.
David Gottlieb, Crawford’s Manhattan lawyer, noted the hypocrisy.
“Ms. Kaplan’s decision to help Goldman Sachs force Ms. Crawford’s claims into a secretive, confidential arbitration forum is the antithesis of what the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund stands for,” he told The Post.
The Time’s Up organization, which includes Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Chastain and Alyssa Milano on its global board of directors, was set up by Hollywood producers and lawyers two years ago in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal and the birth of the #metoo movement. It helped Kaplan, Goss Graves and another lawyer, Tina Tchen, set up the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund to help women fight against sexual harassment. Tchen is also the president and CEO of the Time’s Up Foundation.
The Fund is managed by the National Women’s Law Center, a Washington DC-based nonprofit. In 2018, its inaugural year, the Time’s Up organization contributed $312,001 to the fund at the same time that Time’s Up spent the biggest chunk of its contributions — $1,407,032 — on executive salaries, The Post revealed last week.
Time’s Up claims that the Fund has connected more than 4,000 people with attorneys and “is committed to spending nearly $11 million on over 250 legal cases,” according to a statement on the Time’s Up website. But tax filings for 2018 show that the Fund spent just over $1.7 million, helping 3,000 people. More recent financial data is unavailable since the organization has refused to show its latest federal filing, which was due on Nov. 15. Time’s Up said its audited financial statement and tax filing would be posted on its website in mid December.
A spokeswoman for the National Women’s Law Center told The Post, “Ms. Kaplan’s decision to represent Goldman Sachs in the matter at hand was made in her personal capacity, and with no involvement by the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund.”
Kaplan, who owns a $3.3 million home in East Hampton, recently served as actress Amber Heard’s lawyer in an ugly $50-million defamation case brought by ex-husband Johnny Depp. Kaplan withdrew from the case, citing high travel and logistics costs, earlier this year. She is also representing E. Jean Carroll, who is suing President Trump for an alleged sexual assault.
The lawsuit against Goldman Sachs alleges that the married Cafasso used his position “to romantically prey upon” a 30-something female colleague. “Mr. Cafasso’s obsession with Jane Doe grew so strong that he even blamed her for his misconduct, telling her ‘You’re a temptress’ and ‘You’re the Devil’s pawn,’” according to documents.
For her part, Seymour, who reportedly took home $8.37 million in 2019 and is among the top five highest paid executives at the financial giant, allegedly tried to cover up the misconduct, telling a senior lawyer, “Let’s try to put this genie back in the bottle,” court papers say.
Rather than deal with the situation Crawford exposed, the bank hired an outside law firm to conduct “a bogus investigation” that “put secrecy above fact-finding,” court papers say. Crawford, a confidante of the alleged victim, was not interviewed and when she approached human resources with her information “the response was that she should keep her mouth shut,” court papers say.
Cafasso returned to work after two weeks and Jane Doe, who was represented by firebrand women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, was “likely paid a sum of money and forced out of the bank,” court papers say.
Cafasso retaliated against Crawford, giving her low performance scores, decreasing her bonus and refusing to work with her, according to court documents.
Legal papers filed by Kaplan and her team allege that Crawford, a lawyer, voluntarily entered into a confidential arbitration agreement in exchange for a payout last year and left the firm because she refused to relocate to Dallas. “Crawford’s allegations about that unrelated personnel matter, the resulting investigation, and the Firm’s actions with respect to her employment are patently and demonstrably false,” court papers say.
A spokeswoman for Time’s Up said the group has publicly supported the litigation against Goldman Sachs.
“TIME’S UP routinely calls on companies to lead by example and to right wrongs when they are exposed,” said Amanda Harrington. “We called out Goldman Sachs when this story was first reported, Ms. Kaplan’s decisions regarding this case are made in her personal professional capacity without any involvement from Time’s Up.”
Kaplan refused comment, but a spokesperson for her law firm, Kaplan Hecker and Fink, said, “As our recent court filing explains — this case was brought by a plaintiff seeking to exploit her tangential awareness of an unrelated personnel matter…by publicly exposing another woman’s personal experience and by groundlessly complaining about the steps taken by the General Counsel of Goldman Sachs to ensure that the situation was properly investigated and addressed.”
Time’s Up chair defends Goldman Sachs against sexual harassment lawsuit Wire Services/ New York Post.