Black Merrill Lynch financial advisers suing for discrimination can pursue their case as a group, an appeals court ruled, reversing a lower-court decision.
The U.S. Appeals Court panel in Chicago issued its ruling today. The court said allowing class treatment will prevent courts from having to decide in individual trials whether the challenged practices by Merrill Lynch, now part of Bank of America Corp., were illegal.
“We have trouble seeing the downside of the limited class- action treatment that we think would be appropriate in this case,” Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel.
Broker George McReynolds of Nashville, Tennessee, sued in 2005, alleging Merrill Lynch’s practices and procedures favored white financial advisers over their black counterparts, impairing their ability to make comparable incomes.
McReynolds, along with other plaintiffs who joined the case after he filed it, sought to represent about 700 advisers and trainees who worked in the firm’s Global Private Client unit since January 2001.
“We disagree with the ruling and we are still evaluating the decision but believe that the ruling does not fundamentally change our views that the allegations lack merit,” Shirley Norton, a spokeswoman for Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America, said in an e-mail.
U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman in Chicago in August 2010 rejected the bid by McReynolds and 16 other advisers for certification of the case as a class-action, or group, lawsuit.
The case is McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., 11-3639, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Chicago), and 05-cv-6583, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
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