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Jewish businessmen in suit against GE allege discrimination

JTA

June 15, 2011 | 11:25 am

Two Jewish businessmen—a father and son—have filed a lawsuit against GE Financial Services, accusing the company of racial and religious discrimination.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that Harris Schwartzberg and his father, Albert, were subjected to anti-Semitic behavior from Richard Arrowsmith, their GE loan administrator.

Arrowsmith was “driven by an animosity toward the Schwartzberg family because of its Jewish ancestry,” according to the lawsuit, which seeks tens of millions of dollars in damages.

GE is fighting the charges and told futureofcapitalism.com that the suit was illegitimate.

The Schwartzbergs, who run 12 nursing homes in Louisiana, allege that Arrowsmith used “technical, curable defaults” to harass their company and deny them the funds they required to conduct their business—a series of actions that forced them to incur avoidable financial expense.

The lawsuit also asserts that the reputation of the Schwartzbergs and their health care business was tainted by Arrowsmith’s actions.

According to the lawsuit, Arrowsmith referred to the Schwartzbergs as “those people” to the duo’s chief financial officer, Julie Gutzmann, and repeatedly told her of his anti-Semitic feelings and his desire to conduct an “assault” on the Schwartzbergs and their business.

“We are GE—the 800-pound gorilla—we do whatever we want,” Arrowsmith said at one point, according to the filing.

Russell Wilkerson, GE Capital’s managing director of communications and public affairs, said it is company policy not to comment on legal matters, but that “the case is baseless.”

“The charges,” he told futureofcapitalism.com, “are false and egregious.”

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