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Hanna Bouveng, a 25-year-old former marketing intern, is now $18 million richer after winning a sexual harassment case against her 43-year-old former boss, Benjamin Wey, the CEO of New York Global Group.
Back in 2013, Bouveng, the granddaughter of a Swedish billionaire aluminum company founder, met Wey, a married father of three, at a party in the Hamptons. Shortly after, Wey hired Bouveng to work as an intern at New York Global Group, a U.S.- and Asia-based investment firm in Manhattan. According to the suit, Wey immediately began to pressure her into sex.
Wey began renting a $3,365-a-month apartment in the financial district of the city for Bouveng and taking her out to dinners at exclusive restaurants. On two occasions, Wey booked one-bedroom hotel rooms on business trips to Boston and Dubai and allegedly attempted to pressure her into sex, but she refused.
Eventually, Bouveng told the court, she succumbed to Wey’s advances:
“We went back to the outside of my apartment, and he wanted to come up for tea. He came up, and we sat down on the couch. I sat on the other end and he asked me to come closer and I did, and then he put his arm around me and started kissing me on the neck.
“Then he stood up and grabbed my hand, and we walked into the bedroom. And then he started to undress me. And he said he brought a box of condoms. And then we laid down to bed and we had sex.
“I felt so used and weak, and I was so ashamed that I let this happen. That I’ve been through my entire life and nothing like this has ever happened. And everything that I’ve ever been — strong, independent — he just took that away from me. So I was not that person anymore.”
After their first encounter, which Bouveng described to the court as having lasted only minutes, she had sex with Wey at the apartment three more times out of fear of losing her apartment and work visa before she told him she no longer wanted to have sexual relations with him.
However, Wey only responded with an ultimatum. “He wanted to have sex again and I said, ‘No,’ and he got very pouty and then he said he would have to think about my role in the company,” Bouveng told the court.
The next day, Wey went to Bouveng’s apartment unannounced and discovered something that sent him over the edge — Wey walked in to find Bouveng’s nearly-naked boyfriend, club promoter James Chauvet, hiding under the sheets. Bouveng was not home at the time.
Chauvet, when describing the scene to the jury, explained that an angry Wey yelled, “Did you fuck her?” as he attempted to cover himself up with a bed sheet. Wey eventually kicked Chauvet out after threatening to call the cops.
When Wey saw Bouveng later that day, Bouveng explained, “He screamed, ‘You fucking bitch, I’m going to revoke your visa today. I’m going to fire you today, I want you out of the apartment!’ ”
Wey made Bouveng pack her things and leave the apartment immediately, but not before asking Bouveng if she was OK and needed money. “I don’t need anything from you,” she replied.
“You can go and tell that black guy James to go and fuck himself!” Wey allegedly added towards the end.
Wey ended up firing Bouveng that day, but his anger also led him to write a nasty email to her father, Nils Sundqvist. “I saw a 6-foot-tall homeless black man named James lying on her bed. The man was totally naked, dirty, totally drunk and perhaps on illegal drugs,” Wey wrote to him.
After she was fired, Bouveng moved back to Sweden and eventually found a job working in a cafe in Stockholm. Months after Wey fired her, he reportedly stalked her all the way to Sweden and walked into the cafe where she worked.
Bouveng eventually filed an $850 million lawsuit against Wey for sexual harassment. On Monday, a federal jury awarded Bouveng $2 million in compensatory damages plus $16 million in punitive damages for sexual harassment, retaliation and defamation. Wey and his lawyers still maintain that he and Bouveng never had sex and that the lawsuit is pure extortion.
Wey, who had showed up for court every day of the trial along with his wife, Michaela Wey, was not present for the verdict.
Bouveng’s lawyer, David Ratner of law firm Morelli Alters Ratner, said after the verdict:
“The jury said, yes, she was sexually harassed, yes, she suffered retaliation, yes, she suffered defamation, and they rejected everything Wey had to say. She’s ecstatic, and we are very, very pleased.”
Ratner’s firm will collect one-third of the lawsuit’s payout.
Wey’s attorney, Glenn Colton, said in a statement:
“Of course, we are disappointed in other aspects of the verdict and plan to pursue post-trial remedies vigorously.”
What’s the lesson here? Sexual harassment at work is the best way to make an epic shit-show of your life — just don’t do it.