Neiman Marcus hired an independent investigator to probe accusations that its CEO has been discriminatory in key hires and promotions — allegedly filling top jobs with mostly “gay or European men” and “white and Asian women,” The Post has learned.
The investigator, an unidentified outside law firm, found “no evidence” that Geoffroy van Raemdonck — the luxury chain’s Belgian-born chief executive — or any other hiring managers had “engaged in the conduct described in the allegations,” the company said in an email to The Post.
An explosive blog post from an anonymous group of Neiman Marcus employees alleged that under van Raemdonck, nearly 30 senior vice presidents have been hired or promoted since 2018 — with the vast majority seemingly reflecting “a bias” and a pattern of not promoting from within.
“Today, Geoffroy’s direct reports consist only of white and Asian women and gay men,” the group wrote in the Dec. 11 blog post on Telegra.ph, an anonymous blogging platform. “He favors men who are gay and/or European. Just like him.”
“What does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion mean at Neiman Marcus?” the employees added. “Is it for everyone or just the groups deemed important by Geoffroy?”
It’s the latest controversy to slam van Raemdonck — who previously has faced criticism for taking fat bonuses during the pandemic, even as the company laid off and furloughed thousands of workers. Last year, van Raemdonck and his husband, Alvise Orsini, raised eyebrows when they sold their posh mansion in Dallas where Neiman is headquartered and moved to New York City.
The iconic, 117-year-old retailer — which also owns the swanky Bergdorf Goodman stores in New York — vigorously refuted the discrimination claims.
In a statement to The Post, Neiman said “13 straight men represent almost over 30% of the senior hires and promotion” at the company. The statement added that Neiman has promoted “16 leaders from within” including “4 white, straight men; 1 Asian man and 1 black woman.”
The company also said it has “hired and promoted 9 straight, white men; 3 straight minority men; 1 Hispanic woman.”
“This bears no relationship to the supposed pattern of bias described in the web post,” the company said.
The company’s most recent ESG report shows that women comprise 67% of the overall workforce at Neiman and 61% of vice presidents and above positions. The report also shows that 79% of executives at the vice president and above level are white; 3% are black; 2% are Hispanic and 15% are Asian.
Neiman Marcus declined to identify its hires and promotions by name, when asked by The Post, citing “confidentiality of its employees and their personnel information.”
The employees behind the blog post countered that Neiman’s numbers on hired and promoted executives were “confusing” and “not transparent” because they didn’t include the employees’ names. “We included names for full transparency,” the group said in an email.
Since the blog post went up, one of van Raemdonk’s five direct reports, chief legal officer Hannah Kim, resigned in late December after two and a half years with the company. She was succeeded on Feb. 1 by her assistant Tom Mattei, whose company bio does not indicate whether he is straight or not. Van Raemdonck’s other direct reports include two white women and two gay men, according to the company’s website.
“When will straight US men be welcomed at Neiman Marcus at the most senior levels? And the same for black leaders?” the employees wrote in the blog post.
The employees also claim that there are few in a senior position at the company with institutional knowledge of the business – a far cry from the former management team, many of whom had been with the retailer for decades.
“He’s never valued anyone who has a longer tenure than him,” the employees wrote of van Raemdonck.
The group of current employees — which told The Post in an email exchange that began in the summer that it numbers “five or less” and includes two women — wrote in the blog post that it based its analysis on public announcements as well as its own institutional memory.
The group’s research included 17 press releases and news stories about staffing changes – which The Post reviewed – over the past six years. Of the nine male hires reflected in these documents (seven of whom are white), at least four identify as gay according to The Post’s reporting.
“If this list isn’t complete, it’s very close and is a robust data set,” the employees wrote, referring to the names of leaders ranked senior vice president and higher who were hired or promoted during the past five years.
Neiman’s response to the blog post is not unusual, legal experts say.
“In situations like this it’s not uncommon for a company to hire an outside counsel to investigate,” said Carolyn Richmond, a labor law attorney at Fox Rothschild who has no specific knowledge of the Neiman Marcus situation.
The risk, legal experts say, is that employees could file complaints with US agencies including the National Labor Relations Board and Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. The feds can extract hefty fines if, in response to worker complaints, they conclude hiring and promotion practices are biased.
The employees alleging discrimination did not reach out to the human resources department for data because “it could lead to retaliation,” according to the blog post.
In August, the insiders submitted their complaint to EthicsPoint, which was the company’s anonymous platform for employees to report their concerns. The Post reviewed the EthicsPoint complaint at the time. The workers said Neiman told them to refile the complaint on another platform, AllVoices.
But AllVoices, in addition to requiring users to disclose a telephone number, enlisted Neiman’s chief people and belonging officer Eric Severson to produce a podcast on its website last March.
“We do not want to be tracked due to the sensitive topic and fear of retaliation,” the employees wrote in the blog post.
Neiman Marcus acknowledged Severson’s podcast, but said in a statement that the executive has “no personal or business relationship” with AllVoices. Neiman also said AllVoices “ensures that no one at NMG will know the associate’s email address, IP address or identity.”
In late 2020, Neiman employees had used EthicsPoint to call out van Raemdonck for preserving a “Cadillac” medical plan for himself and a coterie of top execs, even as he slashed pay and benefits across the company, The Post exclusively reported.
Neiman declined to comment at the time, but responded to the EthicsPoint complaint saying, “this is not a conflict of interest situation under our company’s code even though authority to keep or terminate this benefit plan resides with certain senior management who are also beneficiaries under such benefit plan.”
Neiman Marcus cut nearly 5% of its staff a year ago as luxury sales began to slow. The company has been in talks with Saks Fifth Avenue to sell itself to its luxury rival, as The Post first reported. If that deal goes through, van Raemdonck stands to make millions, sources told The Post.