Michael Steinhardt, a megadonor who gave the $2.5 million naming donation to the University of Pennsylvania’s Hillel building, has been accused by multiple women of a decades-long pattern of sexual harassment, allegedly using his position of authority and wealth to solicit sex from younger women in a professional setting.
According to a joint investigation by the New York Times and ProPublica, over the course of more than 20 years, Steinhardt repeatedly requested sex or sexual favors from female nonprofit workers who were relying on or seeking his financial support, and frequently made comments to women about their bodies and fertility.
Steinhardt, a New York billionaire and hedge fund manager, is a major figure in Jewish philanthropy and founder of the Birthright Israel program. He has given millions to charitable causes, and buildings — including Penn’s $12 million Hillel center — across the globe bear his name. In 2001, the Wharton alum contributed the $2.5 million naming donation to the university building, known as Steinhardt Hall.
A Penn spokesperson referred comment on the allegations against Steinhardt to Penn Hillel, which did not return phone or email requests for comment. But Campus Rabbi and Penn Hillel Executive Director Michael Uram said in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the organization had not received any complaints or concerns from Penn Hillel professionals, students, or alumni.
"When these allegations first surfaced last fall, we asked our staff if they had any troubling interactions with him, and none said they did,” Uram told the school paper. “Currently, Penn Hillel is not receiving funds from the Steinhardt Foundation or family and there are no plans currently for future solicitation.”
The New York Times-ProPublica report did not indicate that Steinhardt’s alleged harassment was directed toward any women working for Penn.
Spearheaded by the Philadelphia-based law firm Cozen O’Connor, Hillel International began an investigation into Steinhardt’s behavior last year, according to the report. Amid the probe, the Jewish college outreach organization chose not to pursue a $50,000 donation pledge from the billionaire, and removed his name from its international board of governors.
According to interviews in the report, Steinhardt’s harassing comments — which allegedly ranged from requesting a threesome with a subordinate and her colleague to suggesting during a meeting that a nonprofit officer have babies with him — were often brushed aside.
Through a spokesperson, Steinhardt denied many of the specific claims made by the seven women in the report, but said in a statement to the Times and ProPublica that he regretted the “boorish, disrespectful, and just plain dumb” comments he said were made in jest.
Steinhardt has not been charged with any crimes.