Robert Mercer, one of President Trump’s top financial supporters, is being sued by a former employee of his investment firm who says he was fired for complaining publicly about Mercer’s political views.
The suit was filed in federal court in Philadelphia on Friday by David Magerman, who was a research scientist at Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund where Mercer is the co-CEO. Magerman’s suit said he designed algorithms used in the firm’s investment decisions.
Mercer contributed more than $15 million to a conservative super PAC, Keep the Promise I/Make America Number 1, according to financial records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The super PAC began by supporting Ted Cruz and switched allegiances when Trump locked up the Republican nomination.
Mercer was a major investor in Breitbart News, and he and his daughter Rebekah Mercer recommended that the Trump campaign hire Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, according to the suit. Rebekah Mercer was a key Trump supporter who ran the Making America Number 1 super PAC before the election.
After the election, Magerman said he asked to speak with Mercer about his support for Trump and that the two spoke by phone the week before Trump’s inauguration.
The suit alleges that Mercer made racist comments during that call, saying the United States began to go in the wrong direction after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s and that African-Americans had been fine before the act was passed, were worse off after it passed, and that the only racist people in the United States are black.
Magerman said he was stunned by the comments and spoke to other executives at Renaissance about them.
A couple of weeks later, the suit claims, Mercer called back and said, “I hear you’re going around saying I’m a white supremacist.” Magerman disputed that characterization and the two had another argument about the earlier conversation in which Mercer repeated many of the same opinions, according to the suit.
Magerman says in the suit that he felt obligated to speak out against Mercer’s personal views, and that he checked if he could speak to the press about Mercer’s comments. Magerman says he was told by the firm’s chief compliance officer that the comments he intended to make were permissible under company policy.
Magerman gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, telling the paper he had to speak out against his boss’ views because Mercer was “using the money I helped him make to implement his worldview.” He was suspended without pay once the story appeared in the online version of the Journal and eventually fired, according to the suit.
The suit includes a copy of Magerman’s contract, which shows he was paid about $250,000 a year, plus bonuses, and that he was a termed an “at will” employee who could be dismissed “for any reason or no reason at all, with or without cause or notice.” The suit names only Mercer as a defendant, not Renaissance, and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees.
Magerman’s attorney declined to allow him to be interviewed by CNNMoney. A spokesperson for Renaissance did not respond to requests for comment.
CNNMoney (New York) First published May 8, 2017: 3:44 PM ET