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Former TCW executive sues firm alleging she was fired after filing sexual harassment complaint

Sara Tirschwell, a former managing director of TCW Group's distressed debt strategy group and portfolio manager of the TCW Distressed Fund, on Thursday sued TCW alleging the firm fired her in December after she had lodged a sexual harassment complaint with TCW against her direct supervisor, Jess Ravich, group managing director and head of alternative products, according to the complaint.

The complaint, filed in state court in New York, seeks at least $30 million for unlawfully terminating her, breaching her employment contract and violating the New York City Human Rights Law, which bars discrimination on the basis of gender.

Ms. Tirschwell alleges that beginning in the spring of 2016 Mr. Ravich arranged breakfast meetings with her "ostensibly to discuss business" at which he was usually dressed in a bathrobe and made "unwanted sexual advances," the complaint alleges.

"He (Ravich) repeatedly coerced her into sex, implicitly threatening that if she rejected his advances, TCW would deprive her of resources and investor access that were essential to her successfully building out the Distressed Fund," the complaint alleges. Ms. Tirschwell stopped attending the breakfast meetings in early 2017.

After she stopped attending the meetings, Mr. Ravich allegedly began to repeatedly tell Ms. Tirschwell that David Lippman, president and CEO of TCW Group, did not like her because she was "'sharp elbowed,' a trait common among Tirschwell's male counterparts," the complaint states. Mr. Lippman also allegedly complained to others at TCW's Los Angeles office that Ms. Tirschwell was "bitchy" and "yelled at people."

The complaint states that Ms. Tirschwell's contract with TCW included a provision that if she had not raised a minimum of $100 million by March 31, 2017, her contract would be automatically terminated. Mr. Ravich later helped Ms. Tirschwell get an extension to Feb. 28, 2018. However, after Ms. Tirschwell stopped having sex with Mr. Ravich, the complaint alleges, he discontinued interceding for her to get her marketing, legal and other back-office support. The complaint alleges that in November, after Ms. Tirschwell had already been told that her contract would expire on Feb. 28, Mr. Ravich pressured her to leave TCW by the end of 2017 in exchange for a $700,000 severance package. At that point, Ms. Tirschwell lodged her sexual harassment complaint. Ms. Tirschwell was terminated nine days later.

Both Messrs. Lippman and Ravich declined to comment. A TCW spokesman said Ms. Tirschwell was dismissed for cause and had not made a complaint until she was dismissed.

Doug Morris, TCW spokesman, added in an email: "Ms. Tirschwell was dismissed for cause due to repeated, documented violations of firm policy, and had made no complaint of any kind before it was clear she was being dismissed. TCW is proud of its inclusive culture and has a zero tolerance policy for any form of predatory behavior. We are committed to taking appropriate action in any case where harassment claims are made, and in this matter, TCW promptly engaged an independent investigative firm to examine the allegations and determine the facts. Ms. Tirschwell has declined to participate in the investigation."

Steven Storch, Ms. Tirschwell's attorney, said: "TCW fired Sara Tirschwell before commencing an independent investigation of her complaint against Jess Ravich. She was willing and prepared to cooperate in any such independent investigation while she was employed at TCW but was not afforded the opportunity to do so."