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Headhunter stock drops 24% on sex bias complaint

A NASDAQ sign welcoming CTPartners to the exchange in 2012.
CTPartners | Facebook

Fast-rising executive search firm CTPartners is fighting back against a sexual discrimination complaint that moved its stock down by as much as 24 percent.

"CTPartners takes all allegations of discrimination very seriously," the firm said in a . "As soon as the firm was informed of concerns by an employee earlier this year, the chief operating officer undertook a comprehensive investigation, along with external counsel. Based on that investigation, the company believes that the claim does not have merit."

The response came after a New York Post story early Monday described the firm—according to a confidential complaint it said was filed by former employees—as "a den of discrimination where women are stripped of profitable accounts, held to a higher standard than their male colleagues and subjected to lewd behavior, including a booze-fueled naked romp held by a top partner."

The stock dropped nearly 25 percent Monday before recovering slightly Tuesday. It's now down about 17.6 percent this week but is still up 172 percent for the year.

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"CTPartners is fundamentally committed to a diverse workforce, and promotes an inclusive and positive working environment," the firm added in its statement. "CTPartners is proud that more than one-third of the firm's partners are women, and that 10 of the 17 end-of-year senior-level promotions were earned by female executives."

CTPartners added that it "is aware that a complaint by a former employee" with the U.S. Government's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It wasn't immediately clear why the Post said that multiple female staffers were behind the filing or which was accurate.

The EEOC keeps such complaints private during the course of an investigation, but in this instance it was obtained by the Post. A spokesman for the EEOC said "we are strictly prohibited by law from confirming or denying the existence of discrimination charge filings, investigations, or administrative resolutions."

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CTPartners said late Monday that it was withdrawing a previously announced public offering of 702,703 shares of stock by the company and 404,767 shares by CEO Brian Sullivan "due to market conditions."

CTPartners does executive searches and staffing for a variety of industries, including financial firms like private equity, hedge funds and venture capital. The firm has 44 offices in 24 countries with more than 500 professionals and employees, according to its website.

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