How serious money, polite society and the law enabled Crispin Odey, one of the UK’s most successful and powerful hedge funders, amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment and assault over many decades
On 9 February more than 400 of the hedge fund world’s leading lights gathered in the ballroom of the Grosvenor hotel for the “most prestigious and objective awards” in their industry. For Odey Asset Management, one of Britain’s oldest hedge fund companies, the mood was tense. Many of the employees there felt pressured into attending by its owner Crispin Odey, one of Britain’s richest men. He wanted them there to show that he and his company were united, to boost their morale and to celebrate the firm’s best investment performance ever – a return of 151 per cent over 2022. It was a performance that won it Firm of the Year that night.
But it wasn’t Firm of the Year for very long. By the time his company won its award, eight women had made sexual assault and harassment allegations against Crispin Odey – which he strenuously denies – to the press or police.
For years Odey has been trailed by rumours of sexual misconduct. Last autumn, I spoke to five women – none of whom knew each other – within the space of five weeks, who all made very similar allegations of sexual assault against Crispin Odey. I also spoke to a number of women who claimed to have been sexually harassed by Odey when they worked at his firm.
Crispin Odey told us that the women’s accounts “contain many falsehoods and inaccuracies” and threatened us with “consequences” if Tortoise published the story. Odey Asset Management told us that it takes allegations like these “extremely seriously”.
“This Odey example is just a shocking, revolting, portrayal of what has gone wrong at just every level and in every institution, and actually with all the individuals as well.”
On 5 December 2022 – more than two months before that glittering hedge fund awards ceremony – Tortoise published the Slow Newscast Octopus: the allegations against Crispin Odey. Despite the threats, Crispin Odey didn’t react. His company took no action. I later heard that the view inside the firm was that they’d not only weathered the podcast, but also a report – not the first – about Crispin Odey’s alleged behaviour.
The Financial Conduct Authority – the watchdog that’s responsible for regulating financial firms in the UK – says sexual misconduct is an issue it considers when deciding whether a person is “fit and proper” to work in the industry. But the FCA did nothing. Neither did the police. And neither did the Conservative party, which has received over £250,000 in donations from Odey. Clients, as far as we know, kept their money with Odey Asset Management.
“The apathy is galling and it’s distressing,” one woman, allegedly assaulted by Odey at his Chelsea house in 1998, told me. “This Odey example is just a shocking, revolting, portrayal of what has gone wrong at just every level and in every institution, and actually with all the individuals as well.”
“There’s a culture of silence,” says one woman, allegedly assaulted by Odey at a Belgravia restaurant in 2008. “They’ve all moved on and most of these cases are historic and yet they’re still scared. And the reason they’re scared is because there’s a shame attached to it somewhere. And I think that shame comes from the feeling that it’s not a big deal.”
But it wasn’t just shame that led to the silence that enabled Odey.
Crispin Odey has dominated Britain’s hedge fund scene since 1991, taking big risks with his clients’ money which often pay off. He’s a major donor to the Conservative party, as well as individual politicians like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng once worked for him.
Odey’s standing in the worlds of finance and politics seemed unaffected by Tortoise’s reporting, and with good reason – clients still wanted his investment performance, employees wanted their bonuses, politicians wanted donations. Two journalists from the Financial Times – Antonia Cundy and Madison Marriage – also noticed the lack of reaction. They had a couple of loose leads on the story, so we decided to collaborate on a piece for the FT magazine.
“The kind of scale of his alleged abuse is unlike any other story I’ve worked on,” says Marriage. “You’ve got a company founder of a privately owned company who’s kind of untouchable. They call the shots in terms of pay, bonuses, hiring, firing… I think that’s something for corporate Britain to think about.”
On the morning of 8 June, the piece was published by the FT on their website.
Ahead of publication, one former Odey Asset Management partner, who’d worked there for many years, said how he expected events to unfold.
The banks, nervous after the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, would see the story and distance themselves from Odey Asset Management, he said. Without the banks, the company couldn’t trade. Clients would withdraw their money. And then it’s over.
Sure enough, news broke that evening that Morgan Stanley had cut its ties with Odey Asset Management. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and a BNP Paribas subsidiary followed. And then clients started asking for their money back. In an attempt to save the firm, Odey Asset Management’s remaining partners ousted its founder.
“You’ve got a company founder of a privately owned company who’s kind of untouchable. They call the shots in terms of pay, bonuses, hiring, firing… I think that’s something for corporate Britain to think about.”
Crispin Odey told one journalist that his encounters with women were “consensual” and that the latest piece was a rehash of the Tortoise podcast. He also made clear to the journalist that he really hates me.
While it refused to confirm or deny when asked, the Financial Conduct Authority had in fact been investigating Crispin Odey since October 2021. By that date, the FCA had been informed of sexual misconduct allegations against Crispin Odey stemming from the criminal case against him – as well as from two internal investigations conducted by Odey Asset Management’s lawyers.
It had also been informed, for the second time, that the company’s executive committee was considering dismissing Crispin Odey. The FCA didn’t intervene. Instead it asked the company’s partners what their succession plans were, if they were to go ahead with Crispin Odey’s dismissal. He owned 75 per cent of the company, which meant he was able to dismiss two executive committees when they tried to hold him to account for his behaviour. The FCA was informed in advance that Crispin Odey was going to do this and, again, it didn’t intervene.
In fact, the FCA gave Crispin Odey a grace period in which to find a new executive committee – which a regulated firm must have according to the FCA’s own rules. Unable to find senior executives to sit on his executive committee, he appointed two inexperienced managers from within the company. These two men then held a disciplinary hearing into his behaviour, eventually declaring him as “fit and proper” to the regulator. That executive committee is still in place. But four days after our report’s publication on 8 June, it removed Crispin Odey’s certification with the FCA. The regulator has now broadened its inquiry to consider corporate governance failings at the firm.
“There are just a horrifyingly high number of people who knew,” said one former partner. “There are a lot of people within Odey Asset Management that would tell their staff ‘don’t get in the elevator with this person’… And they cannot say they didn’t know, because it’s documented that they knew.”
Jae-Ann Maher, who joined Odey Asset Management as a receptionist in 2003 aged 22, said “only one male colleague took a stand, and resigned over my case.”
“The FCA should be hauled over by the government authorities that hold them accountable,” says the woman allegedly assaulted in Belgravia in 2008. “And Crispin Odey should be in jail.”
“There are just a horrifyingly high number of people who knew,” said one former partner.
At the end of 2021, Crispin Odey was acquitted of assaulting a young woman at his house in Chelsea in 1998. In his verdict, Judge Nicholas Rimmer told Crispin Odey “you will leave this courthouse with your good character intact,” and congratulated him on reaching his sixties “without a stain on your character”. Four of the women we spoke to cited these comments as a reason for coming forward with their own stories. One of Odey’s alleged victims believes that Rimmer “too should be held accountable for his poor judgement in such a huge position of authority.”
When I asked whether his comments went beyond what was necessary, the Judicial Press Office told me: “a judge would never comment on the outcome of a case”.
Nicholas Rimmer has since been promoted to a more senior judge.
Two other women approached the police during the trial about their own allegations of sexual assault against Crispin Odey. They were told that they would need to press their own charges for their allegations to be taken into account.
“I’m pretty sure that there would have been a way to get my statement into court if I’d been properly advised, because by the end of it, one of the Met officers seemed to say that to me,” one said. “So I’m still unclear… The law needs to change in order to make that easier…or if it already exists, it must become clearer.”
A barrister who has worked on sexual assault trials for the Crown Prosecution Service says that it’s up to the court to decide whether to admit such a statement as evidence, adding that the defence would have sought its exclusion. But he added that if the Crown Prosecution Service believes the statement and the witness behind it are credible, then it will prefer using them as separate charges – because they’re evidence of another crime.
The story of Crispin Odey isn’t just about one man and the multiple allegations of sexual assault and harassment against him. His accusers claim he abused and harassed them for decades – and at every turn, people looked away: colleagues, the regulator, the police, his social associates.
Crispin Odey has since lost control of his company and he might lose the ability to work in finance altogether. But true accountability involves more than business problems, exposure and shame for Crispin Odey himself. The FCA, the police, many of his former colleagues all have questions to answer.