Robert Mercer, co-chief executive of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies and one of Donald Trump’s biggest donors, has been sued by a former employee who says he was fired after he publicly criticised his boss’s support for the US president.
David Magerman, a long-time research scientist at the fund who had helped it build computer algorithms that make investment decisions, was terminated after giving two newspaper interviews condemning Mr Mercer’s conservative views.
The lawsuit sets out Mr Magerman’s reasons for going public and adds new allegations that Mr Mercer made “a series of racist comments” during an argument over politics.
According to Mr Magerman’s account of the conversation, Mr Mercer told him that the US “began to go in the wrong direction after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s,” that “African Americans were doing fine in the late 1950s and early 1960s” before the act, and that the law made African Americans dependent on government by removing their incentive to work.
The lawsuit alleges that Mr Mercer added that the only racist people in the US are black, white people have no racial animus towards African Americans any more, and if there is any, it is not something with which the government should be concerned.
Mr Magerman says he “was stunned by these comments and pushed back, pointing out that society was segregated before the Civil Rights Act and African Americans were required to use separate and inferior schools, water fountains, and other everyday services and items,” but that Mr Mercer told him that was not important.
Through a spokesman, Mr Mercer declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Mr Magerman was fired after the second of two interviews with the Wall Street Journal appeared on April 28, and filed the lawsuit on Friday in federal court in Philadelphia, which is near his Pennsylvania home.
He is seeking more than $150,000 in compensation, plus attorneys’ fees and costs and punitive damages.
Mr Mercer, who funnelled about $25m to conservative causes during the 2016 election cycle, bankrolled the uber-conservative Breitbart News that has helped stoke populist outrage, and recommended its former editor, Stephen Bannon, for a role in the Trump campaign. Mr Bannon is now chief strategist in the White House.
Mr Magerman claims he reported the contentious conversation with Mr Mercer to Peter Brown, who is Renaissance’s other co-chief executive, and sent a memo to the general counsel, chief compliance officer and director of human resources notifying them that he planned to “speak out” about the Trump administration.
Mr Brown apparently expressed disbelief that Mr Mercer would make comments like those and suggested that Mr Magerman talk to Mr Mercer again. In a follow-up conversation, Mr Mercer apparently disputed that he had said such things.
“The Mercers’ public and blatant support for the Trump candidacy, presidency and agenda has cast a taint on all Renaissance employees, including myself,” Mr Magerman had written to Mr Brown.
Mr Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah Mercer, who is also a conservative donor, is alleged to have confronted Mr Magerman at a poker tournament after the first article appeared, calling him “pond scum”, he claims in the lawsuit. “Karma is a bitch,” Ms Mercer allegedly said to him.
Mr Magerman reported that interaction to the Wall Street Journal as well.