Bank of America settles bias suit

Bank of America has settled a lawsuit filed by a broker who claimed that the bank's Merrill Lynch unit discriminated against women through its partnership model.

Jamie Goodman, a broker who worked at Merrill since 1992, sued the company last year in federal court in Manhattan. United States District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin wrote in a court order on Tuesday that both sides told her that they had reached a settlement. Terms were not disclosed.

The lawsuit was filed 13 years after Merrill was sued for systemic sex discrimination against women. That case led the firm to create a national account distribution plan. As part of that effort to eliminate bias, Merrill created partnerships, or teams, of brokers.

In her suit, Ms. Goodman argued that retention bonuses paid to brokers by Bank of America after acquiring Merrill reflected a bias against women. Women brokers were less productive than white men because of the firm's "systemic discrimination," and got lower bonuses as a result, according to the complaint.

Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Bank of America, declined to comment. Lawyers for Ms. Goodman did not return a call.

(Published by NY Times - November 16, 2010)

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