Wafra Head Of Real Estate Fired Over Sexual Harassment Claims
The investment arm of the Kuwaiti government has fired its head of real estate, Frank Lively, following allegations he sexually harassed and discriminated against a female vice president at the company for six years.
Sabine Kraut, a vice president on Wafra’s Real Estate Acquisition team, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission June 1 against Lively and Wafra. She is seeking unspecified damages.
In the filing, which Bloomberg first reported, Lively is accused of subjecting her to ongoing sexual harassment, which includes sending her messages to her personal phone, forcibly kissing her and putting his hand up her dress. Many of Kraut's claims focus on Lively's behavior during business trips to the Gulf, where Wafra is based, and Europe, in which she claims Lively would insist on sitting next to each other on planes, booking adjacent hotel rooms and make inappropriate advances.
She also says she was unfairly overlooked for higher positions while men in the company around her were promoted. In one instance in the claim, she said Lively promoted three male vice presidents to director "to earn respect" in the industry, but denied Kraut the same promotion because "then he would have to promote two other women and he did not want to promote two other women to keep the group's gender balance."
In her complaint, she said Lively visited her at her home and she feared for her safety. She also accuses her of sending letters and poetry. In 2012, he sent her a letter saying she was “hot as a firecracker” and included a firecracker with the note.
Lively was fired April 30 after Kraut reported her complaint, but she said she has been punished since for reporting his behavior, including being left out of meetings for projects she had previously been working on. Lively's replacement, according to Kraut's suit, is Lively's "close personal friend" Yvonne Compitello.
Accompanying the claim, Kraut submitted screenshots of her BlackBerry messenger chains with Lively, a transcript of a recording she took of a conversation in which Lively professed his feelings for her, and a love letter in which Lively called Kraut "my friend, my love, my frustration, my hope, but still always my schatzie," a German term for "darling."
“No one should be subjected to this kind of crude and demeaning behavior,” Walden Macht & Haran's Milton Williams, Kraut’s attorney, said in a statement. “Ms. Kraut made it clear for many, many years that she had no feelings for Mr. Lively and, as a result, was denied professional advancement at the firm.”
A spokesperson for Wafra told Bloomberg the company was informed of the allegations in April, and that Lively was fired after an internal review.
In recent months there have been several gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits filed against senior male members of the New York real estate industry.
Last month, tenant representative firm Cresa reached a settlement with a former broker who sued the firm, claiming that she had been discriminated against, harassed and denied promotions because of her gender and sexuality.
A former creative director at The Lightstone Group filed a suit in April, saying that she was fired after she took time to be with her daughter over the Rosh Hashanah weekend, and that the firm’s president, Mitchell Hochberg, sexually harassed her. Lightstone has filed a response in court, denying the allegations.