July 24, 2024

Employee Blasts Finance Firm as ‘Alcohol-fueled Sexual Cauldron’ in Lawsuit

A Long Island, New York financial advisory firm is a “boiling, alcohol-fueled sexual cauldron,” with certain offices reserved for for “sexual hookups” only, according to an employee who says the company’s top executives fashion themselves after convicted fraudster Jordan Belfort, the real-life “Wolf of Wall Street.”

Senior-level partners at Coastline Wealth Management took bets on who would be the first to bed receptionist Sasha Kemnitzer after she was hired, according to a $15 million lawsuit filed Tuesday and obtained by The Daily Beast. In it, Kemnitzer says she was was the victim of a “campaign of serial and depraved sexual harassment by high-ranking members” of the firm “from nearly the onset of her employment.”

One of the execs became fixated on Kemnitzer to the point of stalking, with “ceaseless in-person advances, phone calls, voicemails, and endless text messages professing his love” for her, the lawsuit alleges. Another portrayed himself as a mentor of sorts, when in fact he was simply trying to get Kemnitzer “to capitulate sexually,” at one point telling her, “I bet you’re a great fuck,” the lawsuit states. Kemnitzer’s “repeated attempts to rebuff them only served to provoke their frenzy,” the suit contends.

When Kemnitzer, who had since been promoted to client services rep, went to the company’s director of HR, he “flirt[ed] and solicit[ed]” her for sex while ignoring her complaints, according to the lawsuit.

At loose ends, Kemnitzer hired a lawyer, after which her suit says she was “further ostracized and humiliated,” stripped of her clients, and left with no choice but to sue.

“No person should have to feel like they’re being hunted as sexual prey, especially in the workplace,” Kemnitzer’s attorney, Vess Mitev, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “These defendants thought that they were above the law, and above any bounds of normal decency, because of their incredible wealth. [They] believe that they are masters of their own universe, and that they could run a den of iniquity masquerading as a trading brokerage, without consequence.”

In an email, Coastline co-founder and managing partner Garrett Taylor denied Kemnitzer’s allegations, calling everything in the lawsuit “either a mischaracterization of the facts, the result of comments and texts being taken out of context, or simply untrue.”

A sample of messages from Managing Director and Senior Financial Advisor Steffan Hagendorf to Kemnitzer.

A sample of messages from Managing Director and Senior Financial Advisor Steffan Hagendorf to Kemnitzer.

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Suffolk County Court

Kemnitzer’s claim is the first against anyone at Coastline in the firm’s 12-year history, Taylor said, adding that the company has taken the accusations seriously and is “satisfied that as a company, and as individuals, we have done nothing to justify these complaints against us.”

“We are saddened and disappointed that a disagreement between colleagues has become the subject of a lawsuit,” Taylor said. “The basic claims in this lawsuit have been investigated and fully addressed by Turning Point, an outside Human Resources agency we proactively brought in to investigate the claims, and our work environment, as soon as we were made aware of them.”

He declined to provide further details, citing active litigation, but said that he and his partners are “confident that when all of the facts are laid bare in this matter, everyone will see that Coastline and its employees have acted appropriately and in a timely manner.”

Kemnitzer began working at Coastline in February 2023, and says she almost immediately became “the target of [Managing Director and Senior Financial Advisor Steffan Hagendorf’s] sexual infatuation,” according to her lawsuit.

A bouquet of flowers personally delivered by Hagendorf on the first day of Kemnitzer's employment.

A bouquet of flowers personally delivered by Hagendorf on the first day of Kemnitzer’s employment.

Suffolk County Court

Hagendorf’s preoccupation with Kemnitzer “continued to grow and intensified into what he perceived as a romantic relationship” between the two, “love-bombing” her constantly, the lawsuit states. However, the suit goes on, it “was in fact… stalker-level encroachment on a daily basis,” featuring, among other things, “bursts of unsolicited and depraved text messages.” Kemnitzer told Hagendorf “unequivocally… in no uncertain terms, that [the two of them] were not in any other type of relationship except a professional one,” according to the suit. It says Kemnitzer asked Hagendorf numerous times to stop hounding her, but her entreaties proved fruitless.

Hagendorf, Taylor, director of Wealth management Denis O’Leary, and partner, financial advisor, and HR director Shiraz Zaidi “fostered a sexually charged, hostile work atmosphere, wherein they compared themselves to ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ broker Jordan Belfort and tried to emulate (poorly) the misogynistic and chauvinistic ‘old boys club’ portrayed in the 2013 Oscar-winning movie,” the lawsuit states.

“Defendants regularly drank at the office during business hours, bragged about their sexual conquests to each other and to employees, including [Kemnitzer], and had sexual encounters at the office on such a regular basis, that it was widely known to employees that certain offices were for ‘sexual hookups’ only,” the lawsuit contends.

Senior-level partners “would drink to the point of browning or blacking out, and would wager whether or not their self-driving vehicles would get them home without issue,” it says. “In short succession preceding the incidents at issue in this case, three women left Defendant Coastline Wealth Management, Inc. in a span of weeks, as they could not handle the boiling alcohol fueled sexual cauldron that Defendant Coastline Wealth Management, Inc. was and is.”

All four of the accused knew Kemnitzer was in recovery for alcohol abuse, and tried to “exploit her vulnerability as a person in recovery to attempt to get [her] to capitulate sexually, especially Defendant O’Leary, who attempted to position himself as a pseudo-life coach to Plaintiff, but in fact transparently attempted to use manipulative tactics and well-known gaslighting methods to control Plaintiff sexually,” the lawsuit alleges.

A photograph of alcohol from Kemnitzer's lawsuit.

A photograph of alcohol from Kemnitzer’s lawsuit.

Suffolk County Court

In early October, nine months into Kemnitzer’s tenure at Coastline, someone—a “third party,” Kemnitzer insists—exposed one of Hagendorf’s “many” extramarital affairs to his wife, the lawsuit says. But Hagendorf believed it was Kemnitzer who had sold him out, and “aggressively confronted [her] at work regarding the infidelity allegations,” according to the suit.

Hagendorf “angrily threatened and berated” Kemnitzer, who was sitting at her desk, the suit continues. “You will get what you have coming to you,” he allegedly shouted at her. As Kemnitzer tried to walk away and leave the office, the lawsuit says Hagendorf kept at it, screaming, “You’ll regret it,” and continuing the “threatening imprecations” by text once Kemnitzer had driven away.

Kemnitzer had good reason to feel scared, according to her attorney, who said Hagendorf had, three weeks or so earlier, asked her to notarize his pistol permit application.

“Push me away… You’ll get what you want,” Hagendorf wrote in a text, a screenshot of which is included in Kemnitzer’s lawsuit. “Find your man on line [sic] or find the next guy… But I’m sure any guy will do and I’ll make you drink and do bad things.”

Kemnitzer immediately went to O’Leary about the “escalating and wildly improper hostile situation… wrongly believing that he would assist,” the lawsuit states. Instead, he downplayed Hagendorf’s alleged behavior as “an uncomfortable situation… that needs to de-escalate,” according to a screenshot of another text to Kemnitzer.

“He enjoys your company,” O’Leary wrote, according to the suit. “You’re insanely attractive, funny, smart, and I bet you’re a great fuck.”

At this point, Kemnitzer says she demanded an independent and impartial HR investigation. But all she got was a meeting with Taylor, O’Leary, and Zaidi during which the trio tried to “strong-arm [Kemnitzer] into not making any further complaints about the abusive and threatening behavior” she had experienced on the job, the lawsuit states. The matter was best kept in-house, Kemnitzer said she was instructed.

Kemnitzer later heard Hagendorf, through the door, “loudly retelling a false version of the events of October 6, 2023, and attempting to blame [Kemnitzer] for his wild misbehavior,” the lawsuit states.

When Kemnitzer hired Mitev as her attorney, she was subsequently given permission to work from home, but was soon replaced, according to the suit.

The experience has caused Kemnitzer “extreme and extraordinary mental and emotional anguish and distress, feelings of shame, self loathing, humiliation, anxiety, crippling social and societal phobias, a loss of any feeling of self-worth, loss of sleep, and a persistent sense of absolute existential dread, whose entire and full sequelae are yet to be fully determined,” the lawsuit says.

She is asking for punitive damages, to “uphold and vindicate the public interest, of no less than $15 million.”

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