WASHINGTON, March 31 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network — At 1:30 ET today, four female financial consultants filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in the Northern District of California, charging sex discrimination at Smith Barney,
the retail brokerage arm of Citigroup, which is the nation’s largest financial
The lawsuit derives from the Women on Wall Street Project
announced in Washington, DC in early April 2004 by the National Council of
Women’s Organizations (NCWO) in partnership with Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, a
plaintiffs’ side civil-rights law firm in DC. This lawsuit is the latest in a
series of legal actions against Wall Street financial firms on gender
At the announcement of the Women on Wall Street Project last year, Dr.
Martha Burk, Chair of NCWO, made public a letter she sent to certain CEOs,
including Citibank’s Sanford Weill (Smith Barney’s parent company), in
response to complaints she had received about gender discrimination at
financial sector companies. Cyrus Mehri partnered with Burk to investigate
claims of systemic gender discrimination made to NCWO over the course of the
The four plaintiffs in this case, Renee Fassbender-Amochaev, Deborah
Orlando, Kathryn N. Varner and Judy Weil, charge that they were discriminated
against with respect to promotions and compensation at Smith Barney.
The initial focus of the Women on Wall Street investigation was financial
firms whose executives are members of the male only golf club, including
American Express (Kenneth E. Chenault, Chairman & CEO); Bank of America
(Kenneth Lewis, CEO; James H. Hance, Jr, Vice Chairman & CFO); Berkshire
Hathaway (Warren E. Buffett, CEO); CitiGroup (Sanford I. Weill, Chairman);
Franklin Templeton (Charles B. Johnson, CEO); JP Morgan Chase (William
Harrison, Chairman & CEO); Morgan Stanley (Phillip J. Purcel III, Chairman &
CEO); and Prudential (Arthur F. Ryan, Chairman & CEO).
The new case is only the most recent sex bias legal action against a Wall
Street company and only one of the many suits filed against Smith Barney.
* In 2004 Morgan Stanley agreed to pay a $54 million settlement rather
than face an EEOC sex discrimination suit.
* Last year an arbitration panel awarded a former female employee of
Merrill Lynch $2.2 million. About 40 other women, including some of
Merrill Lynch’s most successful brokers, still have outstanding claims
against the company.
* In April 2004 a district court judge ruled that a 1997 finding of ‘a
pattern and practice of discrimination’ was relevant in their actions
against Merrill Lynch.
* American Express and Citigroup’s Smith Barney each settled a major class
action sex discrimination lawsuit in the past six years.
* Employees at Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and
Prudential have filed sex discrimination cases each year over the past
* As part of previous litigation against Smith Barney, it was revealed
that drinking parties were held regularly for mainly male brokers in a
basement space dubbed the “boom-boom room,” which featured a toilet bowl
hanging from the ceiling. Male brokers were accused of referring to
women in their presence as “whores” and “c—s.”
“Over the last year, women who work on Wall Street have sent us one
message loud and clear: sex discrimination in their firms does not stop at
Augusta’s gates. The clubhouse extends to their firms — and affects jobs from
the entry-level to the executive suites. Women on Wall Street are less likely
to receive promotions, equal pay packages, stock option equity or the
opportunity to serve on the board of directors,” said Burk.
Dr. Martha Burk, Chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations,
and attorney Cyrus Mehri of Mehri & Skalet PLLC will be available to comment
on the overall situation of sex discrimination in the financial sector and the
Women on Wall Street Project by telephone at 3:30 p.m. E.S.T. The number to
call is (866) 409-4300. When prompted, enter ‘03108’ and press ‘#’.
SOURCE National Council of Women’s Organizations