Lew Lieberbaum  

NEW YORK (AP) A brokerage house portrayed as a cesspool for vulgar

sexual and racial abuse of its employees will pay $1.75 million to 17 former

employees and promise to prevent sexism and racism in the future, lawyers said.

The agreement Wednesday by Lew Lieberbaum & Co. settles charges brought

by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission had

accused the company of permitting harassment of women and blacks.

The Long Island-based brokerage, now known as First Asset Management,

also promised not to discriminate in salary and promotions, said Elizabeth

Grossman, an EEOC attorney.

The agency alleged women workers were subjected to unsolicited touching,

lewd comments, sexual propositions, the distribution of pornography and the

hiring of female erotic dancers for office parties. Black employees were

subjected to disparaging racial comments, the lawsuit said.

The company did not admit to the charges, but said it only wanted to bring the

case to a close. Chief executive Mark I. Lev said he disputes many of the

EEOC's allegations.

"We believe that the settlement is preferable to years of costly litigation that

would distract us from achieving ours as well as our clients' business objectives,"

Lev said. Earlier, a company investigation found the claims were "without merit."

The deal does not affect a $100 million federal lawsuit brought by three women

who had worked at the company. The three women, who will not share in the

settlement, allege that the company's executives subjected women to "uncivilized,

sadistic and cruel conduct," including demands for oral sex.

Ms. Grossman said most of the men accused of harassment remain with the

company, which employs about 200 people in Manhattan and Garden City.

She said the brokerage has agreed to provide better training to prevent sexual

and racial discrimination and to adopt a new anti-harassment policy.

It was the largest settlement of its kind by the agency in New York state.

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