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Former employee testifies Afiniti founder Zia Chishti sexually assaulted her

Updated 17 Nov, 2021
Tatiana Spottiswoode testified at a hearing about how forced arbitration is used to prevent women from pursuing cases in the US court system.
Tatiana Spottiswoode testified at a hearing about how forced arbitration is used to prevent women from pursuing cases in the US court system.

Tatiana Spottiswoode, a law student at Columbia Law School, told members of Congress on Tuesday how she had felt pressured into a sexual relationship by Zia Chishti, chief executive of Afiniti.

Afiniti developed a software to match callers with call centre agents. The company claims 200% annual revenue growth and has been linked with a potential flotation next year in New York, according to an article in The Financial Times.

Chishti is its CEO and also founded Align Technology, a medical device company which has a valuation of $1 billion on NASDAQ according to Afiniti's website. He is also one of the co-founders of The Resource Group, which he is still on the board of, and is estimated at $2billion. He is a graduate of Stanford and Columbia university.

Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat and chair of the judiciary committee called for the hearing as he is preparing legislation to help ban the use of forced arbitration in cases of alleged sexual violence and harassment.

Spottiswoode was testifying at that hearing about how forced arbitration was used to prevent her from pursuing cases in the US court system.

Spottiswoode told the committee about how she first met Chishti when she was 12 or 13 through her family.

"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 said. "Chishti told me he had feelings and showed me an extravagant lifestyle."

She said she eventually dated him about five times over ten weeks, but eventually broke off the relationship.

"Months later, Chishti encouraged me to join his company. He presented a rosy picture of a great career opportunity. I believed him. Chishti told me he did not expect a sexual relationship," she said.

When Spottiswoode joined his company in 2016, she signed a contract that included a forced arbitration agreement.

She testified that despite previously telling Chishti that she did not consent, she felt pressured into having sex with himon an overseas trip, when she claims he beat her.

Afterwards, she said, he initiated an arbitration against her and her father separately. When in May 2019 her arbiter ruled in favour of Spottiswoode — that she had been sexually harassed and assaulted by Chishti — she said he offered to pay $1m and drop the arbitration against her father if she erased the ruling.

In a statement published by Financial Times, Afiniti said: “We take any allegations of this nature extremely seriously. 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.”

Affiniti employs former UK prime minister David Cameron as chair of its advisory board as well as UK's Princess Beatrice in its New York office.

Although he was born in the US, he has strong ties to Pakistan, where his mother is from. It is also where his business interests lie -- Align manufactured its products there, TRG operated a call center, and a majority of Afiniti’s employees are based here.

In 2019, he was in New York City to host Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, at Afiniti’s office on the top floor of the iconic Chrysler Building according to a profile on Chishti in Brunswick.

His affinity for Pakistan came up in the Brunswick profile where Chishti spoke about wanting to change the perception of the country.

"I do describe Pakistan in all its glory because our business has a significant component there – of the 1,000 people at Afiniti, 650 are in Karachi or Lahore. It’s a legitimate topic of discourse in pretty much any meeting that’s designed to understand what we do, how we do it. I try to describe the local economy, the culture, the friendliness toward business, our success there over time," he said.

Chishti met with Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan when he visited the US in 2019.