Bridgewater Settlement with Labor Board on Worker Rights Stays Secret
By Matthew Goldstein and Alexandra StevensonThe resolution of an action by the National Labor Relations Boardagainst Bridgewater Associates, the world’s biggest hedge fund, regarding the rights of employees will remain a mystery — at least to anyone outside of the firm.
Details of the final agreement are being kept confidential at the request of Bridgewater, whose founder, Ray Dalio, promotes its atypical culture and practice of “radical transparency” when it comes to airing grievances internally.
The agreement stems from an action brought by the labor board this year challenging some confidentiality provisions in the contracts that Bridgewater requires each of its more than 1,500 full-time employees to sign.
The board’s action was being closely watched by Wall Street firms and hedge funds that use similar contracts.
The private nonboard agreement between Bridgewater and representatives for a former employee, which was reviewed by the labor board, led the labor relations agency to withdraw its complaint and close the matter just a few months before a scheduled administrative hearing in Hartford.
A copy of the eight-page document, whose text was largely blacked out, was provided to The New York Times as part of a Freedom of Information Act request to the labor board.
It was unclear what, if any, changes were made to Bridgewater’s employee rules and practices because so much of the Oct. 24 document was redacted.
The hedge fund firm, based in Westport, Conn., is required to post a complete version of the “notice to employees” at its offices for 60 days.
Nonboard settlements are common during litigation when both sides agree on the terms, said Jessica Kahanek of the labor board.
“Often, nonboard settlements are confidential and thus the specific terms cannot be released by the agency,” she said in an emailed statement. “As such, I cannot comment to the terms of the agreement. Bridewater said in a statement: “We have policies to protect ourselves that are both legal and reached inagreement with the people who are affected by them and we are pleased to let the legal-regulatory system judge their merits. That has been done and we are pleased and respectful of the process.”
In the past, Mr. Dalio has said that his firm is often misunderstood by the outside world and the media, “because we’ve sort of kind of kept it behind the scenes in a sense.”
Bridgewater is one of the most influential hedge fund firms in the world. It manages more than $150 billion for institutional investors, including public pension funds and sovereign wealth funds.
Over the years, the firm has lured some top government officials to its ranks. Its former general counsel, James B. Comey, is the current director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
And Bridgewater’s president, David McCormick, is said to be among those considered by President-elect Donald J. Trump for Treasury secretary. Mr. McCormick, a former under secretary of the Treasury for international affairs during the administration of President George W. Bush, met with Mr. Trump and vice president-elect Mike Pence on Nov. 20 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.
In the meeting, the three men discussed global financial markets, currency and the American economy, according to a statement released by Mr. Trump’s press team. “Special emphasis was placed on restoring long-term economic growth rates on an annual basis of 4 to 5 percent,” the statement said.
The complaint against Bridgewater was filed this summer after a sexual harassment complaint by a former Bridgewater employee. The board had accused Bridgewater of “interfering with, restraining and coercing” employees from exercising their rights.
The former employee, who withdrew his harassment claim after Bridgewater did not object to his taking a job with another firm, had claimed that he was the victim of sexual harassment by a male supervisor. He also said in his complaint that the firm had retaliated against him.
Lawyers for the former employee did not return requests for comment.
In a letter explaining the redactions, a labor board official said that much of the agreement was being kept confidential “to protect the privacy interests” of Bridgewater and “confidential commercial or financial interests.” It added that the determination to keep the agreement confidential was made after considering “objections and arguments” raised by the hedge fund firm.