Afiniti tech startup founder Zia Cristi, who hired former British Prime Minister David Cameron as an advisor, was fired from the company after being accused of sexually harassing a subordinate. The Financial Times writes about this on November 19.
Afiniti’s board of directors announced on Friday night that Zia Cristi would immediately step down as chairman, CEO and director of Afiniti, the company said in a statement. Afiniti Council will provide “additional organizational information” in the coming days.
On Tuesday, former Afiniti employee Tatiana Spottiswood, during a hearing in the US House of Representatives, spoke about sexual harassment by company founder Zia Cristi. Former employees of LVMH and CBS also participated in the hearing. They shared their stories of sexual harassment at work, which they had to hide due to the terms of their employment contract.
Spottiswood revealed that she joined Afiniti in 2016 at the age of 23. According to the woman, Krishti was a friend of her family and had known her from the age of 12. When she was hired, Spottiswood signed an arbitration clause to maintain strict confidentiality of litigation with her employer.
During the hearing, Spotiswood testified that during her work, Krishti stalked her for months and sent her an e-mail, describing his sexual fantasies, in which he “choked her and grabbed her by the buttocks in front of other employees”. According to Spottiswood, during a business trip to Brazil, Cristi sexually harassed and hit her. Photographs of Spottiswood’s neck showing bruises were shown at the hearing. Spottiswood also said that she hired lawyers and accused Krishti of assault, and Krishti responded by initiating arbitration. “He knew that the secrecy of the arbitration would protect him,” said Spotiswood (quoted in The New York Times).
After the hearing, Afiniti spokeswoman Natalia Cerny said that the company had reviewed Spottiswood’s claims with an independent attorney and concluded that the “arbitral award she referred to was erroneous.” Cerny also stated that Zia Cristi “vigorously disputes all charges against him.” Vedomosti sent a request to Afiniti about whether Krishti’s dismissal was related to charges of sexual harassment and assault.
Afiniti is known for developing call center software. Her clients include Verizon Communications, Virgin Media, Sky. Afinifi’s solution uses artificial intelligence. It connects callers with company agents, choosing the most appropriate employee for the conversation. For example, if a Verizon customer is calling from overseas and two agents are free, the system connects the customer with the employee who has the highest customer service scores outside the United States, The Wall Street Journal reported. In April 2017, it became known that Afiniti received the status of a “unicorn”: during the investment round, Afiniti was valued at $ 1.6 billion. In 2016, the company filed for a possible IPO and planned to go public in 2022.
In 2019, Afiniti hired former British Prime Minister David Cameron to advise the board of directors. Afiniti’s New York office houses Princess Beatrice of York, daughter of Prince Andrew, son of Queen Elizabeth II.
Following allegations of sexual harassment by the Afiniti CEO, Cameron resigned as an advisor. “The alleged events happened before David Cameron started working with Afiniti, he knew absolutely nothing about it before the congressional hearing,” said a spokesman for the former prime minister (quoted by FT).
The allegations, according to the FT, have raised concerns among Afiniti investors. Swiss company GAM Investments, which has 3% Afiniti in its portfolio, has called for an independent investigation of the allegations. Among the investors in the Crunchbase database is McKinsey & Co. Afiniti calls this company a strategic partner. When asked by Vedomosti whether Kristi’s dismissal was approved, Natalya Miroevskaya, a representative of the Russian office of McKinsey & Co, answered: “No comment.”
In the United States, it is considered normal practice to resign from any post in the event of such accusations, Gleb Yakovlev, a partner at Red Lions Capital, explained to Vedomosti. “If the founder of the company, the visionary and the CEO in one person leaves, then, of course. The IPO has been postponed, ”he said. Afiniti will decide on the IPO after the appointment of a new CEO, who will confirm the existing strategy of the company, or after the development of a new strategy for the company, Yakovlev believes.