NEW YORK — She was a young woman from a tiny Swedish town who aspired to work on Wall Street. He was a married man from China who owned a Manhattan investment consulting firm. The intersection of their lives led to an $850 million lawsuit and a scurrilous civil trial involving allegations of sexual conquest, betrayal and stalking.
A jury is deciding the fate of a lawsuit in which 25-year-old Hanna Bouveng claims Benjamin Wey, chief executive officer of New York Global Group, degraded her sexually and then ruined her reputation after firing her. Wey says they never had sex and Bouveng turned to blackmail after being fired for poor performance.
As Bouveng describes it, a successful man nearly 20 years her senior hired her in October 2013 and began a relentless quest to have sex with her. She says he fired her six months later after she refused any more sexual contact and he found a man in her bed in the apartment he helped finance. Efforts to defame her included articles on his blog accusing her of being a "street walker," a "loose woman" and an extortionist, her lawyers say.
As Wey tells it, she was an opportunistic woman who bragged about her wealthy family connections but knew nothing about finance before he hired and began mentoring her. He says she betrayed his generosity by embracing a party-girl lifestyle that left her hungover and exhausted, unable to learn financial principles necessary for success.
Bouveng was raised in Vetlanda, Sweden, population 13,000. Her mother's family owned an aluminum company that employed 20,000, her father was chief financial officer of another company and her aunt was in the Swedish Parliament.
"Her dream, her career, was to be on Wall Street," her attorney, David Ratner, told jurors.
Ratner said his client earned $1,800 monthly and was worried about maintaining her work visa when her boss made his moves, leading to sex on a January night in her $3,600-a-month apartment. The encounter came as Wey was negotiating a deal to use Bouveng's connections to buy a small Swedish insurance company.
"He puts her on the bed and he has sex with her and it's over in 2 minutes," Ratner said. "She was debased. She was degraded. She was defiled. He was delighted. ... He thought he owned her."
Bouveng testified she felt "used and weak" after the early 2014 encounter the same night Wey gave her a Prada bag as a year-end bonus.
"I told him I would have preferred cash," she recalled.
After firing Bouveng in April 2014, Wey walked into a cafe in Stockholm where she was working a few months later, Ratner said.
"The message was: 'Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I am going to find you and I am going to get you," Ratner said. "She used to be sociable. ... Now she is afraid to tell people her last name."
Bouveng testified the cafe visit "felt like an intent to destroy whatever I would do."
Glenn Colton, Wey's lawyer, told jurors that claims that his client forced sex on Bouveng are "totally and demonstrably false." The visit to Stockholm was part of a long-scheduled trip, Wey's lawyers said.
Wey, born in a rural China province, testified he met U.S. missionaries from Houston who taught him English before he got a scholarship to a Baptist college in Oklahoma. There, he met his future wife, Michaela, who came from the Czech Republic to study at the same school.
Wey said Bouveng bragged about her family connections when he first met her in the Hamptons in July 2013, saying her grandfather was the billionaire founder of an aluminum company.
Colton said Bouveng's potential for success was ruined by her embrace of New York's nightclub scene, with late nights spoiling her ability to study the basics of the industry.
After her firing, Bouveng hired a lawyer and began an extortion attempt against her former boss, Colton said.
Colton acknowledged his client had made mistakes.
"Did he write bad articles after that? Were they nasty? Yeah, they were nasty," he said.
Emails and Internet postings written by Wey have affected her, Bouveng said.
"I lost a lot of friends and people don't want to be around me anymore. I really don't want to go out and see people either," she said. "I have applied for jobs but I don't feel as confident as I did before. It's been a tough year."