Does character matter at work? Is violence towards women in one’s private life some type of indicia that raises red flags for workplace malfeasance? Is such conduct so odious that companies should (or even must) take action against the employee if they become aware of criminal conduct? What about something less than a restraining order, a grand jury or court ordered subpoena? All of these questions, and a whole host of others, were raised in a recent New York Times report about a top producer at Morgan Stanley.
The producer, Douglas E. Greenberg, remains one of Morgan Stanley’s top financial advisers, in the top 2% of producers for the company, and “a celebrated member of the wealth management industry.” Meanwhile, four women have obtained court-issued restraining orders against Greenberg over the past 15 years. The four restraining orders were based on various allegations, all of which involve some degree of actual or potential domestic violence:
"He is scaring my children and me."
"I don't know what he's going to do next."
"He choked me so hard it left a mark on my throat."
"He threatened to burn down my house with me in it."
How much does Morgan Stanley know about this conduct? Plenty. It has: 1) received a federal subpoena related to one abuse allegation, 2) an employee internally reported when he was charged with violating a restraining order, 3) Morgan Stanley employees became aware through social media, and 4) it internally investigated Greenberg’s conduct. Despite all of this, Morgan Stanley not only took no action but inducted Greenberg into its “Chairman’s Club,” an elite circle which recognizes brokers who not only are top producers but also meet certain “conduct and compliance standards.”
Has any of Greenberg's allegedly disturbing behavior in his private life ever bled into his work life? How about any co-workers or subordinates who angered him—think he might ever have threatened them? Does Greenberg does he have any type of morals clause or personal conduct clause in his contract, and has he ever done anything to violate it? Does he have any rights to keep his position if he does his job very well but is proven to be guilty of violent behavior at home? For Morgan Stanley, what is the company’s liability for acting to terminate Greenberg? What is its liability for not acting? Has Morgan Stanley, through its own investigations, discovered anything that suggests greenberg has violated its own code of conduct?
These are all very troubling questions. All of them have some kind of human resources and compliance component to them, though, and collectively they point a bigger issue that just Greenberg's allegedly violent conduct: a workplace that, for whatever reason, turns a blind eye to it.