A couple weeks ago, we got an email from a tipster who told us that EY Switzerland CEO Marcel Stalder was “dead meat” due to the firm’s handling of sexual harassment allegations made against a male managing partner by a former female associate. Well, turns out this person was right; Stalder has stepped down as the firm’s chief executive.
Citing an internal memo, several media outlets in Switzerland reported on Jan. 18 that Stalder had resigned as CEO. The memo reportedly said that the firm would soon announce Stalder’s replacement, as well as potential changes to EY Switzerland’s board of directors.
We don’t know if Stalder was told to resign, but given that Finews.com wrote that Stalder’s exit “is a bid by EY to restore trust in the firm again,” we’ll take that as yes.
EY has yet to respond to an email from Going Concern asking for confirmation of Stalder’s resignation and whether or not he was forced out.
But Stalder will still be hanging around the yellow and black halls of EY as market leader for the Germany, Austria, and Switzerland region, according to reports. One person who emailed us was disappointed that EY didn’t completely cut ties with Stalder:
“[A]t least the CEO Stalder is gone, although he just left the boat before he would have gone. EY goes on and is NOT willing to really clean up or take strong actions against anyone. Unbelievable.”
Stalder, who joined EY in 1996 and worked at the firm’s Cleveland office as assistant to the global head of assurance and advisory from 2001 to 2003, took over as CEO of EY Switzerland in July 2016.
But he and his leadership team have been criticized in the Swiss press over EY Switzerland’s investigation into claims of sexual harassment by a former female associate, who accused a managing partner in 2016 of making inappropriate comments about her breasts, making sexual advances toward her, and then bullying her when she rejected him.
The allegations were investigated by EY Switzerland in 2016 and also reviewed in 2018 following a report to the firm’s ethics hotline. The firm found the allegations to be not credible at that time but reopened the investigation after “recent news coverage has presented new claims and allegations,” the firm said in an internal email.
Late last year, EY Switzerland suspended the accused manager partner, who is also the firm’s chief talent officer, pending the outcome of the investigation, which is currently being conducted by an outside law firm hired by EY.
We learned that Stefan Marc Schmid is the chief talent officer at EY Switzerland. An Inside Paradeplatz report in December did not name Schmid as the EY executive accused of sexual harassment, but it did refer to him as “S.” and said, “As the talent officer of EY Switzerland, he was in charge of all personnel matters. He sat on the management board of the Swiss national company.”
Schmid’s LinkedIn profile, which has since been deleted, had said that he is a managing partner and the chief talent officer at EY Switzerland, and it stated that he is a member of the Swiss executive management team at EY.
Schmid could not be reached for comment.
But several people who have recently contacted GC expressed concern with how the investigation is being conducted. One person called it a “charade” and said that the case against the partner/chief talent officer “is crystal clear.” This person told us:
“Now that Stalder is gone, the investigation can be concluded and Schmid will be fired. EMEIA [Europe, Middle East, India and Africa] and global need to kill the ‘Stalder/Schmid’ network of friends and associates which is like a cancer all over EY Switzerland.”
Another person told us the law firm that is conducting the independent investigation into the sexual harassment allegations is the former employer of Christophe Marclay, the head of EY Switzerland’s legal department. This person added:
“[EY EMEIA General Counsel Herve] Labaude stated in October to a whistleblower that there was a ‘thorough and independent’ investigation in 2016. But then he initiated this [current] investigation. But why? He said there was already one. Did EY Switzerland and therefore Stalder lie in the face of EMEIA?”
We have not been able to confirm the name of the law firm doing the investigation or whether Marclay used to work there.
In addition to the sexual harassment claims, Inside Paradeplatz reported earlier this month that at an EY Switzerland holiday party a few years ago, a partner in the firm’s banking practice got an erotic lap dance from his secretary, which was viewed by a couple hundred people. And the secretary reportedly posted photos of the lap dance around EY’s offices in Zurich. The photos were eventually taken down after some employees complained about them to management.
The partner (whose name we’re not publishing because he hasn’t been accused of sexual misconduct, even though he seems like kind of a scumbag, based on some things we’ve been told) and his secretary weren’t punished for the lap dance, but he is reportedly leaving EY Switzerland for a job at management consulting firm Bain & Company, where he supposedly has connections. Bain has not responded to an email from Going Concern asking for comment.
As far as potential candidates to replace Stalder as CEO of EY Switzerland, one person who contacted us said they hope one of the “well-respected, successful, and competent guys from audit” will be elected, such as Andreas Blumer, managing partner of financial services at EY Switzerland, or Patrick Schwaller, managing partner of audit financial services at EY Switzerland. However, this person told us, “The problem is they don’t want to do it.”
Two other potential candidates we were told are Olaf Toepfe, banking and capital markets sector leader at EY Switzerland, and Reto Isenegger, EY global advisory strategy services leader.