Steve Cohen, the new Mets owner whose hedge fund company has been accused of gender discrimination and cultivating a sexist work culture, took swift action after learning of sexual harassment allegations against one of the club’s top employees.
General manager Jared Porter was summarily fired Tuesday morning because of harassing a female reporter years ago, Mets president of operations Sandy Alderson said in a conference call with reporters later in the day. He noted that Porter’s actions came long before he was hired by the Mets, not while he worked for the club.
Alderson said he was well aware of the background of Cohen’s Point72 organization when he took the job to return to the Mets last year, shortly before Cohen was approved to buy the team in a record purchase worth $2.42 billion.
“What we discussed [at the time of his hiring] was my vision for the organization,” said Alderson, who was GM of the Mets from 2010 until mid-2018 when he left the club because of a recurrence of cancer. “And my vision involved a very significant emphasis on integrity, on ethical behavior, and moral courage because we were trying to create an environment that not only could be successful, but would be known for how it succeeded….”
“And Steve was totally on board with that approach,” he continued. “In fact, he insisted on it. Now, was that informed by situations that arose at Point72? I can’t answer that question. But I can tell you he’s totally committed to this approach with the Mets. I think our decision this morning reflects that.”
After a full discussion about the situation and a thorough analysis of the late-night Monday ESPN story that broke the news, Alderson said he and Cohen had separately come to the same conclusion: Porter had to be fired. That decision was a “wake up call” for the organization and came in a quick 7 a.m. phone call between the two men. Porter was informed only moments later.
“It was clear from the story that this was a pretty significant issue, and we had to deal with it appropriately,” Alderson said. “Suffice it to say, had we known about it before Jared was hired it would have been a disqualification.”
Cohen announced the dismissal in a tweet: “In my initial press conference I spoke about the importance of integrity and I meant it. There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”
If there was any hesitancy about Cohen’s purchase of the team among the other 29 owners, it might have been because incidents in his business history. Point72 settled with a female employee who filed a law suit, and Cohen earlier had paid a $1.2 billion fine to the SEC involving another hedge fund he managed.
Cohen needed 75% approval of MLB’s owners to be approved, and he lost only one of the 29 votes.
MLB will investigate the conduct of Porter when he was an employee of the Chicago Cubs baseball operations in 2016, the time period during which the allegations took place and prior to his stint as GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Porter flew through the interview process when he was hired by Alderson this past December. The MLB investigation was first reported Tuesday by multiple sources and acknowledged by Alderson.
“I suspect there will be [an investigation],” Alderson said. “MLB takes these situations very seriously. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some sort of investigation with some sort of consequence. I’m not sure how significant that consequence can be above what we’ve done already.”
As far as replacing Porter at this point, with pitchers and catchers slated to report to spring training camps Feb. 17, it isn’t happening. Alderson said that trades and free agent signings occurred before Porter was hired and will happen afterward.
“The short answer is no, I don’t think we’re going to fill that spot immediately,” he said. “I have pretty much confidence in the people we have currently.”
The Met’s vetting process for new employees will be re-evaluated. Alderson said he spoke to many people who waxed glowingly about Porter without any dissenting opinions, but all of them were men.
“That’s one of the unfortunate circumstances that remains in the game today,” he said. “There aren’t women in those positions with whom one can have a conversation and develop information or check references. How do we treat employees going forward? Steve has talked about zero tolerance.”
In November, Kim Ng was hired by the Marlins as the first female GM in baseball history.
As far as the Mets are concerned, no matter what’s happened in Cohen’s past, Alderson said he and the owner are on the same page.
“I don’t know what [Cohen has] learned from those situations,” Alderson said. “All I can tell you is that from his standpoint, the integrity of the organization, the ethical conduct of all our employees, their professionalism in a myriad of ways is important. Each of us represents the Mets and every time the Mets are associated with this type of conduct we take a hit.”