Byline: by Helen Weathers
SHE MAY be unemployed now, but Jordan Wimmer still likes to give the impression of being worth every penny of the [pounds sterling]500,000-plus a year she used to earn as a high-flying female City executive.
Her pale blonde bob is immaculate, her highnecked, pleated yellow silk blouse is demure, her earrings and make-up discreetly glamorous, and her skirt sits just below the knee.
'There is a very fine line between dressing attractively, but professionally,' she smiles prettily, carefully placing her cream, quilted Chanel handbag on the table, 'and dressing inappropriately.'
Especially, it seems, when wanting to be taken seriously by the financial world's Masters of the Universe while at the same time hoping to encourage wealthy individuals to part with millions of pounds in hedge fund investments.
And Jordan Wimmer is not backwards about coming forward regarding her abilities. 'My last bonus was [pounds sterling]477,000,' says the 30-year-old, 'but based on my sales performance, bringing in close to $650 m to a hedge fund, I asked for three or four times that because I felt I deserved it.
'Women often short sell themselves in the financial sector. Either they are too shy or are frightened of being seen as greedy, but I always did my research before I asked for a higher bonus. I went in armed with information having found out what colleagues in other companies were earning, so I knew my worth.'
By the age of 30, Jordan Wimmer had hoped that she'd be well on the way to becoming a managing director. Only in the past 18 months nothing has quite worked out the way she planned. For not only is Jordan Wimmer not working, but quite possibly faces the prospect of not finding another job within the male-dominated world of financial services. In this country, at least.
Two months ago, she lost her [pounds sterling]4 million claim for sex discrimination against her former boss Mark Lowe, 59, the Oxford-educated founder of Mayfair investment firm Nomos Capital, leaving her with a 'substantial' legal bill of, reportedly, [pounds sterling]100,000.
In a sensational case, Miss Wimmer alleged that Mark Lowe boasted of creating a team of 'Mark's Angels' hiring a blonde (her), a brunette, and an Oriental woman; his own take of the Hollywood film, Charlie's Angels.
Her case came on the back of an ever-growing number of women claiming telephone number-style sums for sexual discrimination in the City. So what kind of woman risks all to take on the financial industry in such a high-profile manner? Are they courageous or misguided? Ms Wimmer was certainly not backwards in coming forward with her allegations.
She claimed Mr Lowe humiliated her in front of important clients by referring to her as 'the decorative one', bombarded her with 'dumb blonde jokes', by email and deeply upset her by taking her to a lapdancing club, and viewing an escort agency website in front of her.
She claimed to the tribunal that all this 'belittlement' and 'demeaning behaviour', prompted a nervous breakdown in 2008, requiring a sixweek stay in a [pounds sterling]10,000 a week private clinic. Her pay was stopped to recoup the [pounds sterling]65,000 Mark Lowe claimed was a loan to cover the treatment.
Jordan, who claimed she was once told to 'work more and dress less', walked out in February 2009 -- shortly after returning to work -- after she claimed Mr Lowe's sympathy for her illness evaporated.
By her own description 'a fighter', she consulted lawyers and launched a claim for sex discrimination, disability discrimination, unfair constructive dismissal and unauthorised deduction from her wages. She tells me now she was '1,000 per cent' certain she was going to win and 'cried for days' when her lawyers informed her that she had lost. It was her mother, with whom Jordan was convalescing in Canada, who delivered the news with the words 'there is no way of sugar-coating this ...'
In a highly damning judgement, the tribunal, headed by employment judge Sara Woffenden, found that Miss Wimmer had 'not been a persuasive witness', had exaggerated her evidence, and had failed to complain or show distress about the incidents until long after they occurred.
Mark Lowe's lawyers, welcoming the decision, said their client -- who insisted he'd always acted in a 'gentlemanly way' -- had been guilty only of 'office banter' and that his 'dumb blonde' jokes were meant to be 'ironic'.
Miss Wimmer, the implication was, had cried wolf late in the day when her career hit the buffers, as a result of her unrelated personal problems. For, it emerged at the hearing, she had suffered an eating disorder since her teens and had a year-long affair with a married banker.
This is Jordan Wimmer's first interview since losing her case. She says she reluctantly decided not to appeal against the tribunal decision, after learning it would cost her as much as the original hearing.
She has no income, is existing on savings, and plans to give up her rented Chelsea flat and start afresh elsewhere, possibly in Canada, Dubai or New York.
Surely she must regret this bruising litigation, which in the words of the tribunal, has 'backfired' on her? Given that in 2008-2009, only three per cent of sex discrimination cases in the financial sector won at tribunal, she must have known she risked losing everything.
Jordan, however, sees herself as a standard bearer for all women.
'Even though my case was dismissed, I don't regret taking this action at all,' she says. 'In fact, I found the process very healing.'
Well, that is one way of putting it. 'I have had so many messages of support and even some job offers, but I have not been in a position to pursue them, because my main priority has been my health. I suffered from a very severe depression and I am still on anti-depressants and seeing a therapist, but I am recovering and I have beaten my eating disorder.
'I am taking things slowly, but I do not accept that my career in finance is over. I feel it's only just beginning and can be even better, once I have my health back.'
And just in case anyone thinks Jordan's [pounds sterling]4 m discrimination claim was a cynical gamble motivated by greed, she is quick to inform me that, had she won, she was planning to use the money to set up a foundation offering mentoring and support to other women who feel discriminated against.
Jordan Wimmer is a hard woman to read. She talks of being 'a victim', but her professional demeanour suggests she can be tough.
The daughter of a Canadian entrepreneur, Jordan arrived in London via Monaco where she worked as an [pounds sterling]800 a month internship for a private Greek bank after completing an MBA.
'My parents came from humble beginnings, but through hard work bettered themselves and were able to give me the best education,' she says. 'They taught me to dream big. I've never believed in glass ceilings and have always thought anything was possible if you put your mind to it and work hard.'
She was introduced to Mark Lowe through a banking client in 2004.
Mr Lowe, was considered a 'legendary' figure in the City and in 2005 was listed in the Sunday Times Rich List as being worth [pounds sterling]103 m. With the offer of a base salary of [pounds sterling]50,000-a-year plus bonuses -- later rising to [pounds sterling]100,000 -- Jordan took the job.
In 2005 Mr Lowe hired Carol Teng, 30, his 'Oriental Angel' and the following year, his third Angel, 'brunette' Katrin Bulach, 34. If she didn't like being referred to at one of 'Mark's Angels', why didn't Jordan complain at the time? After all, the other 'Angels' have not come forward. Indeed, one is still believed to be working for Mr Lowe.
'We were a very small team. Just us three saleswomen, Mark Lowe who ran the company, and his second in command.
It's not as if there were human resources managers to complain to,' she says.
'Of course, now I wish I'd just got another job and moved on,' she says,' but it's easy to see what you should have done with the benefit of hindsight and I did love my work. I was good at it. I was too loyal to leave.'
Besides there were benefits. Jordan enjoyed business class travel, fivestar hotels, limousines and meals at top restaurants at the company's expense.
Mr Lowe allowed her time out for beauty sessions as she had to be 'wellgroomed' for the job, however she says she was working 80 hours plus a week.
The hearing heard that Jordan Wimmer 'partied like a rock star' courtesy of Nomos Capital, and while she is the first to admit she enjoyed the luxurious perks of the job, she dismisses this as an attempt to 'make her look bad'.
'I don't drink, I'm teetotal,' she says,' and I've never done drugs.'
But what about her affair with a married man? Miss Wimmer doesn't like to talk about this on-off 'roller-coaster' relationship, beyond saying: 'You know, I don't care what anyone does in their private life, provided it isn't brought into the office. I didn't bring my private life into the office.'
Then there was the infamous lapdancing incident in Paris is 2006. Why didn't she walk out of the club if she was unhappy, rather than stay and watch her boss enjoy two private dances? 'I had never been to that kind of club before and I didn't want to go, but I was in Paris and I didn't know where I was,' she says. 'I felt if I refused, it would annoy him.'
Couldn't she have 'managed her exit' by feigning a headache from the club rather than stay for two hours? 'I wish I had!' she exclaims, 'but I felt I had to stay and that my job would be on the line if I left.'
Jordan went to her GP who prescribed anti-depressants. She says she then suffered a 'mini-breakdown' in the autumn of 2008 and was admitted to a private clinic.
Initially, she says, Mr Lowe was sympathetic. Despite claiming she'd started to feel depressed shortly after she began working for Nomos Capital in 2004, the first and only mention of it being linked to alleged harassment at work in her medical notes was in November 2008, the day she was discharged from the private clinic. 'My psychiatrist tells me that sometimes it takes many months for the real issues to surface and I think that's what happened with me,' she explains. And how exactly did she describe what she was going through to her doctor? 'You know, I can't really remember that,' she replies,' I was going through therapy and it's all a bit of a blur.'
ACCORDING to one report of the tribunal hearing, she told one doctor: 'I just ignored it because I was earning so much money.'
Today, she is earning nothing. During the worst of her depression, she spent all day in bed but now she is recovering.
Where once she would hop in a taxi, now she walks everywhere. As for buying designer suits, she now has to watch what she spends. The last thing she treated herself to was a [pounds sterling]7 diary from Selfridges. It was reduced.
In her eyes, all this is a mere blip in her upward trajectory.
'I'm using this time to get some balance back into my life,' she says positively. 'I'm going to pick myself up, dust myself down and start all over again. I may even start my own financial services business, as there is something very appealing about being my own boss.'
Jordan Wimmer may have no regrets about her failed discrimination claim, but one suspects the tribunal's comments will hardly enhance her CV.
Judge Woffenden, let us not forget, concluded that Miss Wimmer 'knew' Mr Lowe's jokes were ironic as she had 'felt herself to be his favourite and was receiving the highest salary.'
Perhaps, one day, however Jordan will make full use again of those designer outfits.
One favourite suit, however, is missing from her wardrobe. 'During the hearing I wore a Ralph Lauren black label suit,' she says,' but the court room was so hostile, I knew I would never be able to wear it again.'
Jordan donated the suit to a non-profit organisation providing interview suits, confidence boosts and career development for low income women. And the name of the charity? Dress For Success.
Lawyer Gill Switalski launched the largest ever sexual discrimination claim -- [pounds sterling]19 million. This year she settled for an undisclosed sum
From the Mail on Tuesday, May 4
No regrets: Jordan Wimmer…