All three women worked as financial advisors at the company — two of them are in Florida, and one in New York — and are being represented by the same legal team behind a lawsuit of female financial advisors against Smith Barney, which was settled for $33 million in 2008. Their claims:
Bias on the basis of gender in account distributions; partnership opportunities; up front money, pay-out rate, and other benefits in its compensation plan; as well as in other opportunities for brokers to increase their income. The complaint charges that these violations are systemic, based upon company-wide policies and practices.
One of the women, Judy Calibuso, said she was retaliated against after she filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission in 2007. (She had previously met with her manager and asked for "fee-based" accounts, and was told by the manager that he preferred to distribute them to a male colleague.) All three are described to have complained internally and been retaliated against afterwards.
The women are seeking class action status for their claim. The complaint describes a pattern of "cumulative advantage," in which male financial advisors are given plum accounts first and then repeatedly rewarded for subsequent success. It blames "subjective decision making" of branch managers for the pattern. And it says it got worse after the Bank Of America-Merrill Lynch merger.
There is no giant outrage in the complaint; rather, these women complain of a thousand small slights that added up to their systemic disadvantage. Such are the building blocks upon which women's professional exclusion are built.