November 13, 2017
Bikram Choudhury files for bankruptcy—a slick move in a sleazy situation.
Have we reached a day of reckoning? Recent allegations against Hollywood big shots and political figures might suggest that. But the series of sexual misconduct outings and subsequent social media backlashes do not equal justice. And apparently, in the case of Bikram Choudhury, paying court-ordered penalties to the women who sued on claims of sexual harassment and rape will not serve as justice, either.
In a bankruptcy filing made last Thursday, the wildly and internationally successful Bikram Choudhury Yoga Inc. claimed its assets only add up to $1 million—not even close to the $16.7 million that is owed to former employees and students who filed lawsuits against the company—and the man–for offenses ranging from wrongful termination to sexual harassment and rape.
According to Reuters:
The Simi Valley, California-based company said in a bankruptcy court filing on Thursday in the Central District of California that its liabilities were worth up to $50 million. It listed assets of up to $1 million, suggesting that its largest creditors – women who are owed money for court judgments awarded against Choudhury – will not be paid in full.
They include Miki Jaffa Bodden, former head of legal and international affairs at Choudhury’s yoga school who has an $8 million claim stemming from a wrongful dismissal case that included sexual harassment claims.
Bodden alleged that Choudhury repeatedly subjected her to vulgar sexual gestures and offensive comments about women and minority groups.
“Birkram Choudhury created a hyper-sexualized, offensive and degrading environment for women by, among other things, demanding that female staffers brush his hair and give him massages,” Bodden said in her 2013 lawsuit.
She also accused him of pressuring her to cover up sexual harassment of women, and in a separate lawsuit filed this year, of fraudulently transferring assets such as luxury cars including a Ferrari and a Bentley to avoid paying judgments against him.
Petra Starke, who moved from her job as lawyer in the Obama White House to chief executive of the Bikram Yoga College of India in 2013, complained of wrongful dismissal, sexually inappropriate conduct and “racist tirades.” She has a $5.1 million claim.
Sharon Clerkin, who sued claiming she was fired for becoming pregnant, is owed $3.6 million.
To be honest, the only surprise here is that it took so long for his lawyers to file for bankruptcy. Some of you may recall that a warrant was issued for Choudhury’s arrest back in May after the infamous fancy schmancy luxury cars that Miki Jaffa Bodden won (along with all of the Bikram empire) as part of her suit just *poof* disappeared. The warrant made it possible for Choudhury to be arrested in the U.S. and possibly Mexico, which is where it was suspected the alleged rapist is hiding.
He has not been arrested.
Bikram Choudhury still faces six other lawsuits claiming sexual harassment and/or rape. He vehemently denies any wrongdoing, though he’s quick to flash his temper, call his accusers “trash,” and show his true nauseatingly narcissistic colors when asked about the claims.
Of note: The Reuters article points out that “restructuring experts have mentioned Chapter 11 bankruptcy as an option for the Weinstein Company to avoid mounting legal claims against its founder, Harvey Weinstein, over alleged sexual crimes.” How convenient. How completely telltale of a person secure in his innocence.
It may be true that justice may not be served financially, but with Bikram’s biggest supporters and franchises shedding their connection to the brand name like an eskimo’s parka in hot yoga, we may move on from this and leave any trace of that sweaty sleazeball behind on the stinky carpet. Unfortunately, we can’t say that his victims will be able to do the same.
image via AP
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