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Merrill Lynch settles discrimination case for $160 million

A class of plaintiffs consisting of around 1,200 African-American financial advisers have reached a $160 million settlement with Merrill Lynch [corporate website] in a racial discrimination lawsuit, according to a plaintiffs' attorney on Wednesday. The settlement [WP report] has to be approved by the Judge Robert Gettleman for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website], which would close an almost decade-long case. The lawsuit was filed in 2005 alleging that Merrill Lynch prevented its black brokers from obtaining lucrative businesses, thereby reducing their pay and causing them to earn less than their white coworkers. The plaintiffs claimed that they made almost 50 percent less on average in 2006 alone and that they were shielded from career opportunities. An approval may take months, and a status hearing is scheduled for September 3.

Gettleman had previously refused to give the case a class-action status. However, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] reversed the ruling in 2012 thereby reopening the case. Discrimination is an ongoing issue. Earlier this month a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] rejected [JURIST report] a potential gender discrimination class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart [corporate website]. That lawsuit, which aimed to represent 150,000 female Wal-Mart employees, was an attempt to file a smaller representative version of an earlier gender discrimination class action lawsuit estimated to include more than 1.5 million women.

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