Citigroup Inc. canceled a speech by Ben Stein, a popular television and film actor and business columnist, at an upcoming conference after it received a complaint from a potential female attendee who had heard him speak at a financial services conference earlier this year. She said she was offended by his jokes, which she considered to be disparaging to women, according to an article on Bloomberg.com.
Stein was to be a luncheon speaker at the 2011 Citi Pension, Foundation and Endowment Conference, May 17–18 in New York City.
According to the article, a Citigroup spokesperson said the bank canceled the speaking engagement after receiving an e-mail from Lynda Villarreal, vice president of business development, Trident Trust, Dallas, asking them to reconsider Stein as a speaker.
Other speakers on the agenda are hedge fund manager John Paulson and Peter Orszag, Citigroup vice chairman and former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama.
Several female employees of Citigroup filed a gender discrimination suit against the company last fall, according to news sources.
Stein was one of three keynoters at the opening general session of Meeting Professionals International World Education Conference in July 2009, and he received a standing ovation from MPI attendees despite his presentation’s “raunchy jokes,” according to MeetingsNet’s coverage. At the time, during the height of the “AIG effect,” Stein had become the unlikely poster boy for the meetings industry, writing and speaking out in defense of business meetings in every medium.
Stein has made speaking engagements a mainstay of his livelihood, making $45,000 (plus first-class travel for two) on average for a speech, according to the Bloomberg article.