Black Brokers Granted an Appeal in Bias Case Against Merrill Lynch

After many legal avenues had closed, a federal appellate court agrees to hear the case of five financial advisors who believe they were unfairly denied bonuses.

Posted: 11/18/2011 05:49 PM EST

A federal appellate court in Chicago agreed Wednesday to hear the case of some 700 African-American financial advisors who have filed a class-action lawsuit against Merrill Lynch claiming the brokerage firm discriminated against them in promotion, compensation, client assignment and resource allocation.

The brokers’ legal crusade began in 2005, and has experienced a number of courtroom setbacks, most recently when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case in October. One of the issues was whether the case could be certified as a class-action suit. On Nov. 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed to begin hearing the case in Chicago, probably early in 2012.

Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch in 2009, creating the largest bank in the U.S. At the time the lawsuit was initially filed, Stanley O'Neal, an African-American, was the chief executive of Merrill Lynch.

"Our camel was able to go through the eye of the needle," Linda Friedman, who represents 17 of the brokers, told Dow Jones News Wire. "Our feeling has always been the facts of this case are extremely compelling."

(Photo: Cate Gillon/Getty Images)