During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, shocking claims were leveled against a millionaire businessman. The committee was looking at how compulsory arbitration causes unfairness.
Tatiana Spottiswoode, a Columbia Law School student, testified that she first encountered Invisalign and Afiniti inventor Zia Chishti when she was twelve or thirteen years old.
“When I was in my senior year of college, in December 2014, Chishti, who was 43 at the time, invited me on a ski trip. I was 21,” she noted. “I initially declined, but he insisted he wanted me to meet his nephew, who also studied philosophy. So I agreed. I later learned that the nephew, who never showed up, didn’t exist.”
“The trip was designed to groom me,” she testified. “Chishti told me he had feelings and showed me an extravagant lifestyle.”
Spottiswoode said that as he continued to pursue her, she ultimately dated him five times in ten weeks, but ended the relationship.
“Months later, Chishti encouraged me to join his company. He presented a rosy picture of a great career opportunity,” she explained. “I believed him. Chishti told me he did not expect a sexual relationship.”
Spottiswoode signed a contract that includes a mandatory arbitration clause when she joined his firm in 2016.
She went on to explain a poisonous work atmosphere, which she experienced while on a vacation to South America.
“In Brazil, I avoided him as much as I could, but was under increasing pressure from him. I began to worry that, in addition to wanting sex, Chishti wanted to hurt me and punish me for rejecting him,” she explained. “I felt completely trapped and hopeless. I was 23 and very far from home.”
“I didn’t want to lose my job, I didn’t want him to get any angrier, I did not feel that anyone would protect me and I was too tired to argue with him anymore. I went to his room where he beat me while having sex with me,” she testified. “I told him he was hurting me, he said, ‘Good.’ He told me he should’ve had sex with me when we first met, when I was 13-years-old.”
“I hid in my hotel room until my flight the next day. My body was covered with scratches, cuts, and contusions. I had bruises around my neck that looked like I had been strangled, a large bump on my head, and a black eye,” she explained. “A nurse at the hospital said I had the symptoms of a concussion.”
She said that she was concerned about revealing her experience in public.
“Today, as I speak here, I am afraid of the consequences for my family that will arise from my speaking out. I have PTSD, I have nightmares, I used to be a very social person and I no longer am,” Spottiswoode explained. “The person who changed my life forever continues to abuse me because forced arbitration gives him the power to do it in secret.”
David Cameron resigned from Afiniti, a software business, after the 23-year-old former employee accused the company’s multimillionaire founder of sexual assault.
After Tatiana Spottiswoode presented a litany of claims against the chief executive, Zia Chishti, to members of Congress in the US on Tuesday, the former UK prime minister stated on Wednesday that he would step down as head of its advisory board.
Cameron, whose post-political career had previously been harmed by his role as chair of the advisory board of the defunct bank Greensill, said he had “absolutely no knowledge” of the allegations against Chishti prior to the hearing and had resigned as chair of the company’s advisory board with immediate effect.
“The alleged events took place before David Cameron started working for Afiniti and he had absolutely no knowledge of them until just before yesterday’s congressional hearing,” the former prime minister’s spokesperson said.
“Mr Cameron understands that the allegations are disputed but disagrees with the approach being taken by the company in responding to the matter. He made this view clear to Mr Chishti yesterday.”
On Wednesday, the committee supposedly disclosed photographs of Spottiswoode’s neck injury.
Afiniti, which also employs Princess Beatrice, said that Chishti “strongly disputes all accusations against him” and said her claims were “erroneous” and that her statements are “erroneous.”
“We take any allegations of this nature extremely seriously,” a spokesperson said. “Afiniti has investigated Ms Spottiswoode’s claims with independent counsel and concluded that the arbitral decision she references was erroneous. Afiniti’s CEO and chair Zia Chishti strongly disputes all accusations against him.”
Cameron joined Afiniti in 2019 as head of its advisory board, giving strategic counsel to the company’s management and board members. Afiniti supplies contact center technology to organizations such as Virgin Media and Sky. When he was appointed, he said that he would assist “transform the future of customer service and interpersonal communications.”
She was testifying at a hearing on how compulsory arbitration agreements have been used to discourage survivors of sexual harassment and sexual abuse from seeking legal action.
The judiciary committee’s head, Jerry Nadler, is working on legislation that would prohibit the practice of forced arbitration in situations of suspected sexual assault and harassment.
Spottiswoode, a Columbia University law student and Chishti’s daughter’s acquaintance, told members of Congress that Chishti coerced her into having sex in order for her to maintain her employment.