Finra faces discrimination suit from fired manager

Jill Wile said she was retaliated against and terminated for making discrimination claims against her boss

By Mason Braswell

Feb 24, 2014 @ 11:15 am (Updated 3:06 pm) EST

lawsuit, finra, gender, financial industry regulatory authority

A former Finra manager is seeking millions of dollars in damages in federal court, where she is alleging that senior officials at the regulator fired her for reporting discriminatory conduct on the part of her boss.

The former deputy regional director in Finra's Boca Raton, Fla., office, Jill Wile, 52, said that she was terminated last March after she claimed that her manager, regional director Manley Ray, discriminated against her on the basis of her age, gender and a diagnosed anxiety disorder, according to a complaint filed this month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The firing was the culmination of retaliatory behavior on the part of officials at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc., which included blaming her in a high-profile case where the regulator was accused of unjustly dismissing three arbitrators, she said.

The claim doesn't specify damages, but Ms. Wile's attorney, James Hubbard of Liddle & Robinson, said that loss of earnings and other claims could total “in the millions of dollars.”

Finra denied all her allegations when she brought them before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year, seeking approval for her lawsuit.

Finra spokeswoman Nancy Condon declined to comment, beyond citing the agency's denials in the EEOC action.

The case stems from May 2012 when Ms. Wile filed a complaint with Finra's human resources department, claiming that Mr. Ray, who was in his mid-40s, had unfairly threatened to fire her despite the fact that she had “received only exceptional and high-contributor performance ratings” during her 24 years with Finra, according to the suit.

He had begun treating her differently from younger or male employees once she turned 50 in December 2011, the suit claimed.

On one occasion, Mr. Ray criticized Ms. Wile's casual Friday dress for being too youthful because “she was 50,” she claimed in the suit.

In addition, he told jokes about the older members of Finra's arbitration pool and the advanced age of the president of Finra, Linda Fienberg, who is in her 70s, according to the complaint.

Ms. Wile also said that when Mr. Ray joined the office he fired three employees in their 60s and 70s and demoted a female employee who was approaching 60.

Mr. Ray declined to comment on the case.

After Ms. Wile's complaint, Finra conducted an investigation and said that while the claims were “unfounded, it did reveal and bring to the fore a number of issues that merit further discussion,” according to the lawsuit.

Following the report, Ms. Wile said she was the object of hostility from Mr. Ray and other Finra officials.

In more than one instance they blamed her for their own misconduct, Ms. Wile said.

For example, in one, the high-profile case of Robert Postell v. Merrill Lynch, she said that she was unfairly blamed after the panel was dismissed for bias but then reinstated after public criticism prompted a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation in mid-2012.

“Despite the fact that Wile had recommended only counseling for all three arbitrators and that the removal recommendation came from senior Finra management, Finra and Ray blamed Wile for the arbitrators' removal and complaints, and severely criticized her,” the lawsuit alleged.

Ms. Wile's 2012 evaluation, dated one day before her termination was announced, said that the error in judgment damaged her credibility with senior management.

Finra didn't explain to her why she was being fired, Mr. Hubbard said.

He declined to offer a statement because the suit is pending.

Finra hasn't yet filed a response with the court.