A “Chicago Tribune” investigation included accounts from former employees who described incidents of sexual harassment, misogyny and bullying.

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An investigation published by the Chicago Tribune on Saturday detailed a culture at mortgage lender Guaranteed Rate that former employees alleged was plagued by bullying, misogyny and sexual harassment.

The outlet spoke with nearly 80 former Guaranteed Rate employees and reviewed court records, internal company emails, text messages and other documents as part of the investigation.

The report focused on allegations made against CEO Victor Ciardelli, who employees said was “quick to berate, swear at and demean employees,” as well as other executives who were close to Ciardelli.

Ex-employees, some of whom now work at lenders who are competitors of Guaranteed Rate, told the company that their mental health had suffered after working for executives at the company, the Tribune reported. 

The Tribune cited ex-employees who detailed a sexualized atmosphere within the company, where male employees made sexually explicit comments to female counterparts.

“Every person that works directly under Mr. Ciardelli is terrified of his potential anger outbursts,” one former assistant wrote in an email to human resources that was reviewed by the Tribune.

Ciardelli and Guaranteed Rate denied all of the allegations to the Tribune and provided testimony, surveys and access to employees who refuted the investigation’s findings. They noted that the company has a high number of female loan officers compared to competitors, and said the company had taken conscious steps to create opportunities for women to thrive within the company.

In response to the story, a Guaranteed Rate spokesperson called the Tribune article a “hit piece written to tarnish our company’s reputation.”

“We categorically disagree with what was written in the article and believe it to be inaccurate,” the spokesperson said in a statement to Inman. “Much of the article was fueled by former disgruntled employees who are now working with a competitor.”

“We provided the Chicago Tribune with a tremendous amount of information that debunked the story that was irresponsibly written,” the statement continued. “We provided them with over 80 testimonials of current female executives, top female loan officers and former company employees documenting their positive experience at the company and love for the culture.”

The investigation comes after Ciardelli and the company have faced remarkable success and accolades since its founding in Chicago in 2000.

Guaranteed Rate grew from 2,500 employees in 2014 to 9,708 at its peak in 2021, the company told The Tribune. Like many lenders amid the high interest rate environment, the company has struggled and cut staff over the past two years. It had 3,871 employees as of April after several rounds of layoffs.

The company was named a Chicago Tribune Top Workplace in 2018, which is based on surveys conducted by a company not affiliated with the Tribune. In 2016, Ciardelli brokered a deal that landed Guaranteed Rate the naming rights for the stadium that’s home to the Chicago White Sox.

Guaranteed Rate has consistently been among the top mortgage lenders by origination volume and market share.

Email Taylor Anderson

Update: This story was updated to include a comment from Guaranteed Rate.

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