One of the last claimants from the 1997 class-action discrimination lawsuit against Merrill Lynch collected her reward late last month. Separately, Morgan Stanley has confirmed that it settled with over 3,000 claimants but would not comment further. Both sides in the Morgan case expect to file documents to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking preliminary court approval for the settlement by April 12 when the settlement terms will be made public.
As for Merrill, an arbitration panel awarded Nancy Thomas $420,000 for her harassment claims that ranged from pornography in the office to lewd gestures. (Click here to read more on Thomasâ€™ award.)
The settlement involving over 900 female Merrill Lynch employees called for a three-part process in which claimants were first each offered a monetary reward by the firm. If the offer was disputed, the matter was moved to mediation where a new amount would be negotiated. If both measures failed, the claimants received an arbitration hearing.
According to Mary Stowell, the plaintiffsâ€™ lawyer in the class-action suit, less than 10 women have had arbitration hearings. Thomas was one of them. Hydie Sumner also had her case heard in an arbitration hearing and was awarded $2.2 million. (Click here to read more on Sumner.)
Once all claims have been heard, Merrill Lynch will have awarded about $250 million to the women.
Merrill Lynch issued this statement: â€śThe Thomas decision concludes virtually all of the gender-discrimination cases brought a decade ago, and allows all of us involved to move forward. While we are pleased the panel expressly rejected Ms. Thomasâ€™ sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims, we think it is more important to note that the kind of pay-based gender discrimination for which she recovered would not be tolerated in todayâ€™s Merrill Lynch. Male and female financial advisors are paid solely for the work that they do and it is not, in any way, related to their gender.â€ť
Jeffrey Liddle, Thomasâ€™ lawyer, did not respond to Registered Rep. at press time.
In June, plaintiffs filed a complaint against Morgan Stanley, alleging the firm engages in gender discrimination with respect to compensating and promoting female advisors. Further, the suit claims Morgan Stanley discriminated against the women in training and mentoring, account assignments and in taking part in company-approved partnership arrangements with other brokers. (Click here to read how the case started.) Three of the lead plaintiffs are also alleging age discrimination at the firm.