700 black brokers, who either are or were employed by Merrill Lynch, have settled their class action claims for $160 million according to the New York Times. This settlement is believed to be largest sum ever distributed in a racial discrimination suit against an American employer. As part of the settlement, Merrill Lynch agreed to take advice from black employees on how to improve the success of black brokers.
The suit was initially filed in 2005. The case started with just one black broker named George McReynolds. Over several years, he persuaded other black brokers to join him in his quest for equality. The discrimination was widely scattered and impacted black brokers who were isolated from the support of other black team members.
At the time of suit, only one in about every 75 brokers was black. Moreover, in 25 of the states where Merrill Lynch had offices, there were absolutely no black brokers. It was alleged in the suit that black brokers were viewed as poor producers, that management was not supportive of them, co-workers ignored them, and that all of this made it less likely that they would be successful.