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Historic Settlement Pushes Diversity Conversation to Forefront of Brokerage Industry

Not often do workplace discrimination lawsuits last the better part of a decade. Even less often does the plaintiff in the case continue to work for the company throughout the duration. Well, that’s exactly what George McReynolds did in his racial bias lawsuit Merrill Lynch – a case that he just won. Now, the 68-year-old Nashville broker is pushing for a leadership role at the firm to advise on the hiring and mentoring of minorities.

The case, well-documented by the New York Times, is a major victory of the equal treatment of employees and candidates in the wealth management space. The industry has long been dominated by white males, a reality not lost on McReynolds, a 30-year veteran of the firm. In 2005, at the time he filed the suit, Merrill didn’t have a single black broker in half of all U.S. states.

Those few who were employed tended to fare poorly, due mainly to the fact that blacks weren’t give the same business opportunities as whites, according to the lawyers representing McReynolds and the other Merrill employees who have since joined the suit. Black advisers were often excluded from teams that are central to growing a wealth management business, the suit alleged.

“Their goal in filing this was to try to make Wall Street a friendlier place where their kids would have the same opportunities to do this job that they love so much,” said Suzanne Bish, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, who won a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against Merrill in 2998. “Our clients are going to help Merrill and help Wall Street be a more open place for everyone.”

Merrill cracked on Monday and reportedly agreed to a $160 million settlement, known to be the largest ever for a racial discrimination suit against an American employer. It’s a huge step forward for wealth managers, but should also have a major impact across Wall Street and in other industries as well.

Bain to Hire 400 Consultants (eFinancialCareers)

Like other consulting firms, Bain is actively hiring. You’ll need a heck of a resume though. The firm is known for recruiting almost exclusively out of top business schools. We talked to Keith Bevans, head of Bain’s global consultant recruiting team, to see what else you’ll need to land the job.

Sketchy Behavior (Bloomberg)

An interesting phenomenon occurs late in the afternoon on the last day of trading in nearly every month. Currency prices spike, then quickly recede. Experts are beginning to believe currency dealers may be manipulating rates.

Hefty Fine Looming (Reuters)

J.P. Morgan is expected to be fined between $500 million and $600 million for its handling of the “London Whale” trading debacle. Still no word on whether the bank will formally admit to any wrongdoing.

Hefty Tab (Bloomberg)

Want to know why banks aren’t finding much success cutting costs despite all the layoffs? The six biggest U.S. banks have racked up over $100 billion in legal costs since the crisis. Wow.

Is Anyone Listening? (WSJ)

When the Ben Bernanke speaks, the markets react.  New Bank of England Governor Mark Carney apparently doesn’t have the same gravitas. He threated aggressive stimulus measures on Wednesday, but traders apparently didn’t get the message.

Banned (FIN Alternatives)

The former auditor of Peregrine Financial Group has been permanently banned from the industry for failing to stop Russell Wasendorf from stealing more than $200 million from clients. Jeannie Veraja-Snelling audited the firm for over a decade.

No Man Standing (WSJ)

Dallas money manager Ed Butowsky, one of the last major investors in SAC Capital, is reluctantly taking his client money elsewhere after being advised by his lawyers. Butowsky called himself “the last man standing” earlier this month after declaring that the assets would remain with SAC.

Buzz Around the Office

Lazy Co-Worker (Business Insider)

Think the U.S. government stinks of bureaucracy? Take a look at India. Bhaskar Rao holds two roles within the India government. The main responsibility of each position is to correspond with the other. So that’s what he does – he writes letters to himself. "There are times when I have to dictate a stern letter to myself beca­use of the delay in res­ponse from myself from the other office."

List of the Day: Interview No-Nos

Know your rights. An interviewer is not supposed to ask you these questions, even if presented in an innocuous manner.

  1. How old are you?
  2. Are you married with kids?
  3. How long would your commute be?

(Source: The Ladders)

AUTHORBeecher Tuttle US Editor

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