Bank of America will pay $39 million to settle claims it discriminated against women in its investment advice division, the company announced Friday evening. It is the bank’s second major settlement over employee discrimination claims in two weeks.
The money will be divvied up between roughly 4,800 women who worked at Bank of America and its subsidiary Merrill Lynch from 2007 onward. The suit alleged the companies had systematically pushed the most lucrative clients to men, undermining women’s compensation and professional opportunities in ways that violate anti-discrimination provisions of U.S. civil rights law. An earlier settlement over gender discrimination was supposed to have changed the business culture that advantaged male brokers over women, but the claims in the suit settled Friday reportedly mirror those of previous gender discrimination suits that Merrill Lynch had paid $250 million to settle in the 1990s.
The allegations Merrill settled Friday also reflect the same pattern of behavior alleged by black investment advisers in a suit settled late last month for $160 million. That settlement is the largest racial discrimination payout on record at roughly four times the size of Friday’s gender discrimination payout. It will be divided among roughly one quarter as many plaintiffs. Both settlements include pledges to revise company practices and impose internal processes that are geared toward improving career opportunities and training for women and minorities.
The financial industry is so dominated by white men that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms included a requirement that firms improve their gender and racial diversity. As of 2008, women and minorities made up 26 percent and 10 percent of management positions in the financial industry, respectively. A Government Accountability Office report in 2013 found that those percentages had risen, but not substantially.