Between November 18, 2005 and November 16, 2006, current and former African-American financial advisor employees and trainees filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against their employer, Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc.,. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for both monetary damages and injunctive relief, charging the defendant with race discrimination in terms of hiring, retention, promotion, pay, resource allocation and more.
On August 9, 2010, the District Court (Judge Robert W. Gettlemen) denied plaintiffs' motion for class certification on the ground that commonality was not satisfied because the putative class members were supervised by hundreds of different people and had a wide variety of salary levels and positions. Judge Gettlemen subsequently denied the employees' motion for reconsideration and their amended motion for class certification.
In February 2011, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit denied class certification.
Plaintiffs filed an amended motion for class certification in July 2011, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes. The District Court denied their motion in September 2011.
The employees filed an interlocutory appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which permitted appeal. On February 24, 2012, the Seventh Circuit (Judge Richard Posner) held that the issue of whether Merrill Lynch's policies had a disparate impact on African-American employees was appropriate for class-wide treatment.
Merrill Lynch's motion for rehearing en banc was denied by the Seventh Circuit on March 27, 2012. Its subsequent appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied on October 1, 2012.
On July 13, 2012, the District Court issued certification of the disparate impact class.
On August 28, 2013, the District Court (Judge Gettlemen) granted preliminary approval for a settlement agreement on all claims proposed by the parties. Pursuant to the agreement, Merrill Lynch would allocate $160 million in a settlement fund, $25 million of which would be designated for extraordinary claims. Additionally, Merrill Lynch agreed not to object to a motion for attorney's fees up to 25 percent of the settlement fund and a motion for expenses up to $5 million.Kunyi Zhang - 11/09/2010
Christianna Kyriacou - 11/08/2013