February 1, 2018 / 7:46 PM / 2 months ago

Racial bias persists at Morgan Stanley, new lawsuit claims

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Morgan Stanley has reneged on promises to stop discriminating against black employees, according to a lawsuit by a former broker who said he was fired after complaining about racial bias, including in pay and career opportunities.

FILE PHOTO: The corporate logo of financial firm Morgan Stanley is pictured on the company's world headquarters in New York, U.S. April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

In a complaint filed on Thursday in Manhattan federal court, John Lockette said he was given negative performance reviews, denied raises and bonuses, deemed too “verbose,” and subjected by one supervisor to the nickname “Johnny” because he was black.

The New Jersey resident said the discrimination culminated in his August 2016 dismissal, three years after he was hired as an assistant vice president in wealth management.

Lockette said Morgan Stanley has “no intent to abide by the spirit” of its 2007 agreement to pay $16 million and reform its practices, to settle class-action claims it steered business to white male brokers at the expense of black and Hispanic brokers.

Morgan Stanley denied Lockette’s allegations.

“The firm is strongly committed to nondiscrimination, and looks forward to addressing this former employee’s claims on the merits,” spokeswoman Christy Jockle said in an email.

Linda Friedman, a lawyer for Lockette, disputed Morgan Stanley’s commitment.

Blacks working there face “a lack of support, undue criticism, and a lack of trust and sincere belief in their capacity to contribute or lead,” Friedman said in an interview.

“Wall Street has a belief that money is not green, it’s white,” she added.

Morgan Stanley ended 2017 with 15,712 brokers who oversaw $2.37 trillion of client assets, and generated an average $1.12 million of annualized revenue per representative, a regulatory filing showed.

Lockette said he had begun complaining about his treatment roughly two years before his dismissal.

He said this included an insistence by one supervisor that he join a special program to prepare for the Series 7 broker examination because blacks’ “intellectual weakness” left them “inherently less capable” of passing, the complaint said.

The lawsuit also said Morgan Stanley uses “stealth” methods to force unhappy brokers to arbitrate their claims, rather than band together to pursue class actions in court. A separate lawsuit in the Manhattan court targets this alleged practice.

Friedman said Lockette is not now employed in financial services. His lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, back pay, and an injunction against further discrimination.

The case is Lockette v Morgan Stanley et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-00876.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York

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