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Thursday, March 23, 2023

The CEO of Afiniti, an artificial intelligence startup, is stepping down following allegations of sexual assault.

The chief executive of Afiniti, an artificial intelligence software company, has resigned, the company announced Thursday, two days after a former employee testified in front of a congressional committee that an executive had raped and beaten her.

The company’s board of directors said that chief executive Zia Chishti, who also founded the company, “immediately stepped down as chairman, chief executive officer and director of Afiniti,” according to a posting on the company’s website.

“The board will make additional organizational announcements in the coming days,” the statement said.

Tatiana Spottiswood, a former employee, testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that Mr Chishti had stalked her for several months after joining the company in 2016, when she was about 23 years old.

She said that he had sent her an email describing a sexual fantasy in which he strangled her and that he once grabbed her by the buttocks in front of other employees.

Then, on a business trip to Brazil in 2017, he raped and beat her, Ms Spottiswood said. When she hired lawyers and accused him of assaulting her, she said, he filed an arbitration against her.

“He knew the secrecy of arbitration would protect him,” said Ms. Spottiswood.

Ms Spottiswood said that when she started at Afiniti, she signed a contract that included a “strong confidentiality arbitration agreement.”

On the same day Ms Spottiswood testified, a spokeswoman for Afiniti stated that the company had investigated the claims “with an independent attorney and concluded that the award she cited was in error.”

“Zia Chishti categorically disputes all charges against him,” spokeswoman Natalie Cerny said at the time. On Friday, Ms Cerny declined to comment on the recording.

Mr Chishti, 50, said Friday that he denied “all charges.”

“I don’t think the evidence supports them,” he said. “Rather the opposite.”

Mr Chishti added that he “deeply supports women in the workplace.”

“It’s one of my top priorities to make sure they work as well as they can,” he said. “As a result, these accusations are especially offensive.”

Ms Spottiswood’s testimony also prompted former British Prime Minister David Cameron to step down as chairman of the company’s advisory board, the BBC reported.

Mr Cameron said in a statement to the BBC that he understands the allegations are disputed, but that he “disagrees with the approach taken by the company in response to this question.”

Ms. Spottiswood was one of four women who testified before a committee that was considering legislation to overturn compulsory arbitration for victims of sexual violence and harassment. According to lawmakers, compulsory arbitration often requires an employee to go through private litigation with their employer after being charged with workplace misconduct.

On Wednesday, the committee agreed with a 27 to 14 vote to bring the bill to the House of Representatives for a vote. The bill enjoys bipartisan support.

World Nation News Desk
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