Merrill Lynch defeats bid by black advisers to sue as group

Judge denies class action status in discrimination case

Aug 15, 2010 @ 12:01 am

By Bloomberg

A U.S. District Court judge has denied a bid for class action status by 17 black financial advisers in their five-year-old discrimination suit against the Merrill Lynch unit of Bank of America Corp.

Broker George McReynolds of Nashville, Tenn., sued in 2005, alleging that Merrill's practices and procedures favored white advisers over their black counterparts, impairing their ability to make comparable incomes.

Judge Robert W. Gettleman in the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago on Aug. 5 rejected the bid by Mr. McReynolds and 16 other advisers who later joined the case for certification as a class.

“Plaintiffs' statistical evidence alone is insufficient to establish companywide discrimination” affecting each member of the proposed class the same way, Mr. Gettleman said. Each individual claim must be tried by a jury, he said.

The plaintiffs had sought class action status for about 700 advisers and trainees who had worked in Merrill's retail Global Private Client unit since January 2001.

“We're pleased with the court's ruling,” said BofA spokesman William Halldin, declining to comment further.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Linda Friedman, a partner in law firm Stowell & Friedman Ltd., didn't return a phone calling seeking comment.

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