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Merrill Lynch to pay out $160 million in racial bias case

Back in 2005, a racial discrimination lawsuit was levied against Merrill Lynch, one of the largest brokerage firms in the United States. According to the complaint, which later became a class-action lawsuit on behalf of some 700 African-American brokers, Merrill Lynch managers failed to provide proper training to its black employees, putting them at a disadvantage when compared to their white coworkers. The lawsuit also contended that some of the black brokers also felt ostracized by their coworkers as well.

It was a sentiment that Merrill Lynch's first black chief executive agreed with in a deposition for the case, stating that because of the demographic of their clients -- usually white businessman -- black brokers would have a harder time convincing prospective clients to trust their money to someone who was not the same skin color. In the end, the case took eight long years and two trips to the U.S. Supreme Court before a resolution could be made.

This month, the New York Times announced that Merrill Lynch had agreed to pay out $160 million to settle the race discrimination case -- the largest sum to be paid out in a racial discrimination case in the United States to date. Per the settlement agreement, the pool of money will be available to all black brokers and trainees who worked at the firm since May 2012.

It's important to point out that while not all discrimination cases may last eight years such as this one, some can still stretch out for longer than may be expected. But as this story points out, perseverance and the search for justice can sometimes end in a win for those involved in the fight.

Source: New York Times Deal Book, "Merrill Lynch in Big Payout for Bias Case," Patrick McGeehan, Aug. 27, 2013

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