Merrill Lynch, the giant Wall Street brokerage firm, has agreed to pay $160 million as part of a settlement to a racial discrimination lawsuit that has been immersed in courtroom maneuvering for nearly a decade.
The lawsuit involved more than 700 African-American brokers who worked for Merrill Lynch and the settlement would be the largest dollar amount ever given to a plaintiff in a racial discrimination suit.
The $160 million will be paid to all of the brokerage company’s African-American brokers and trainees who have worked there since May of 2001. The settlement figure is larger than those of other companies involved in racial discrimination settlement cases, including the Coca-Cola Company and Texaco Inc.
Suzanne E. Bish, an attorney in Chicago, confirmed the settlement. However, in a statement, Merrill Lynch said it is “not commenting on the existence” of a settlement in the discrimination case.
George McReynolds, the primary plaintiff in the case, charged that the large brokerage company engaged in a pattern of racial discrimination and that African-American employees had lower production than white men at Merrill Lynch.
Bish made a point of the fact that the settlement came on the same day as the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C.
McReynolds, who is now 68 years old, continues to work for Merrill Lynch despite having sued his employer. He has said he would like to have a seat on the leadership council that Merrill Lynch agreed to establish to offer advice to the company on how to hire and mentor African-Americans.
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