BofA to pay $160M to settle racial bias case

Suit on behalf of 1,200 black brokers claimed discrimination in business opportunities

Dec 6, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

By Trevor Hunnicutt

A judge has approved a plan by Bank of America Corp. to pay $160 million to settle a discrimination suit filed by African-American brokers and trainees.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Gettleman made the settlement final in a hearing Friday at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, according to Princess Acres, assistant to a lawyer for the plaintiffs at Stowell & Friedman LTD.

The settlement is the largest since Coca-Cola Co. paid $192.5 million in 2001 and Texaco Inc. paid $176 million in 1997 to settle similar suits, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Bank of America has hailed the settlement and said it would enhance opportunities for African-American advisers, who historically have been hired in small numbers at Wall Street firms, including the Merrill Lynch brokerage it purchased in 2009.

The case, filed in 2005, was brought on behalf of one employee and grew to represent as many as 1,200 class members. Merrill Lynch employed 15,624 advisers as of Sept. 30.

The central claim of the suit was that black brokers weren't given the same business opportunities as whites in participating on investment teams and in account distribution.

Mr. Gettleman rejected the case as a class action three times before a federal appeals court approved it.

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