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Judge cuts $18 million verdict for N.Y. financier's ex-employee

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(Reuters) — A federal judge on Thursday reduced by more than two-thirds the maximum sum a Swedish woman can recover after having prevailed in a jury trial against a New York financier she accused of sexual harassment and defamation.

U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan said he would grant New York Global Group CEO Benjamin Wey a new damages trial unless his former employee, Hanna Bouveng, agreed by April 10 to have her damages award cut to $5.65 million from $18 million.

In a 111-page decision, Judge Gardephe also upheld the jury’s finding of liability in the lawsuit, which accused Mr. Wey of coercing Ms. Bouveng into having sex, refusing his further advances and defaming her in a series of blog posts.

“Based on the evidence at trial, a reasonable jury could conclude that Mr. Wey’s sexual advances toward plaintiff were unwelcome, and that he knew they were unwelcome,” Judge Gardephe wrote.

Mr. Wey’s lawyer had no immediate comment. A lawyer for Ms. Bouveng did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a Twitter post after the ruling, Mr. Wey declared “victory,” reiterating his claims that the lawsuit amounted to “extortion.”

Mr. Wey was separately indicted in September on federal securities fraud charges for engineering Chinese “reverse mergers” and then manipulating stock prices to earn tens of millions of dollars in illegal profits. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Bouveng trial garnered lurid tabloid headlines by pitting the young woman against a Wall Street financier about 20 years her senior.

At trial, lawyers for Ms. Bouveng contended that Mr. Wey had engaged in a relentless campaign of harassment after hiring her in 2013 when she was 24, buying her gifts and demanding sexual favors in return.

Ms. Bouveng’s lawyers said Mr. Wey’s actions led to sexual encounters before she rejected his further attempts, and that Mr. Wey fired her after discovering another man in her apartment, which he was helping to finance, in April 2014.

After she filed her civil lawsuit, Mr. Wey wrote several disparaging articles in an online publication, TheBlot, controlled by FNL Media, a New York Global Group subsidiary. Both companies were also defendants.

Mr. Wey’s lawyer, Glenn Colton, contended at trial that his client and Ms. Bouveng never had sex, and that Ms. Bouveng attempted to extort Mr. Wey after she was fired for substandard work.