Lawyers for hundreds of black financial advisers have reached a $160 million settlement in a lawsuit accusing Wall Street brokerage giant Merrill Lynch of racial discrimination, a plaintiffs’ attorney said Wednesday.
If approved by a federal judge in Chicago, the payout by Merrill Lynch to about 1,200 plaintiffs would be one of the largest ever in a racial-discrimination case, Chicago-based attorney Suzanne E. Bish said.
Bank of America-owned Merrill Lynch — one of the world’s largest brokerages with more than 15,000 financial advisers — issued a statement Wednesday saying only, “We’re not at this point commenting on the existence of the settlement nor the status of a settlement.”
Lead plaintiff George McReynolds accused Merrill Lynch of steering black brokers away from the most-lucrative business and so, under a compensation system emphasizing production, they earned less than their white counterparts. They made 43 percent less in compensation on average in 2006, plaintiff filings allege.
The settlement coincides with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” Bish noted. She said she hopes the case will help ensure the kind of equal opportunity King spoke about.