Ms. Haugh, 56, who was terminated in May from New York-based SIMNA, filed an age-discrimination suit against the New York firm, London-based Schroders and Mr. Dobson on Oct. 7 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
"I was devastated" over the May 9 termination, Ms. Haugh said in an interview. Just 11 days before the termination, the Association of Investment Management Sales Executives presented her with its Richard A. Lothrop Award for outstanding achievement, its highest honor.
Charlotte Rose, a spokeswoman for Schroders, said: "As a company we are fully committed to equal opportunity and we reject any suggestion of discrimination. Ms. Haugh's claim will be vigorously contested."
Stanley Arkin, Ms. Haugh's attorney and a partner in Arkin Kaplan & Cohen LLP, New York, said age discrimination is much more common in the United Kingdom than in the United States.
"This is something that comes out of the U.K. business culture," said Mr. Arkin. "In England, there is a terrible controversy now about how mature workers are being shunted aside. Schroders' is bringing that to the U.S."
"Here we have a very accomplished woman, but because she's an aging woman they threw her out saying they want younger people," he added.
Executive recruiters in the United States said age discrimination is not a major problem in the U.S. money management industry.
"I'm not aware of any age-discrimination problem I can point to," said Ed Oppedisano, who runs the eponymous recruiting firm in New York. "I'm not aware of any organization that has done it."
One recruiter who requested anonymity said Ms. Haugh is known in the industry "as a lady with backbone, and she's had a strong view about her value to the organization." The recruiter also said he thought Mr. Dobson "wanted someone who was more flexible and in tune with how the business should be run in the U.S."
Ms. Haugh said Mr. Dobson never indicated that he found her difficult.
None of SIMNA's U.S. pension fund clients would comment about the situation, saying they didn't know much about the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks damages for pay (including but not limited to salary, pension benefits, bonuses, options, insurance and other benefits), costs and attorneys' fees.
The lawsuit states that Schroders' attitude toward older workers began to change after Mr. Dobson, who is 50, was appointed chairman of the firm in November 2001.
According to the lawsuit, on Nov. 19, 2001, Ms. Haugh participated in a conference call with Peter Robatham of Schroders' London group personnel department. He said that Schroders should focus on increasing salaries for employees in their 30s because older employees were not as marketable and less likely to leave SIMNA.
According to the court filings, Ms. Haugh reported the conversation to Lea Blackham, head of personnel in London, and told her it was illegal to discriminate by age in the United States.
Ms. Haugh had regular communication with Mr. Dobson during the course of her work at SIMNA, and he never indicated any displeasure with her performance, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also states that on April 9 Mr. Dobson told Ms. Haugh he wanted to hire a new CEO for SIMNA who would assume all of her responsibilities. He didn't criticize Ms. Haugh's work and said the only reason for the change was because he "wanted someone younger." He suggested she continue working as chairwoman. Ms. Haugh asked him to provide a new job description; he never did.
On May 9, according to the lawsuit, Ms. Haugh was fired during a meeting with Mr. Dobson and Jonathan Asquith, Schroders chief financial officer. She refused to sign a "separation agreement" that would release SIMNA and Schroders from all claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the New York Human Rights Act and all other causes of action or liabilities, according to the suit.
The lawsuit states that Schroders "scrambled to construct a rationale for their conduct."
In a "particularly vicious form of misconduct," the lawsuit states, the defendants were quoted in a May 27 Pensions & Investments story as saying Ms. Haugh was "dumped in part because Schroder's U.S. assets had plummeted." The suit contends the statement was false and unfairly reflected on Ms. Haugh's fitness for her position.
In the interview, Ms. Haugh acknowledged that SIMNA's U.S. tax-exempt assets did fall to $24 billion from about $30 billion in 2001. But "if you look at it, it's all from the movement of the (stock) market, it's not from losing clients," she said.