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Bank of America's gender bias settlement approved by court

A federal judge on Friday approved Bank of America's $39 million settlement of a gender discrimination lawsuit by female brokers over objections that the accord would enshrine bias on Wall Street.

U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn, N.Y., called the settlement "in all respects, fair, reasonable, and adequate.''

The settlement, announced on Sept. 6, resolved claims on behalf of about 4,800 current and former female financial advisers that women were paid less than men, deprived of handling their fair share of lucrative accounts and faced retaliation if they complained.


Adam Jeffery | CNBC

It is separate from the bank's $160 million settlement with hundreds of black Merrill Lynch brokers who alleged racial bias in pay, promotions and how big accounts were allocated.

Bank of America bought Merrill in January 2009.

(Read more: Barclays fined over records failures)

The gender bias accord also required Bank of America to hire an independent monitor to oversee improvements and a consultant to study how the bank "teams'' brokers. Policy improvements will remain in effect for three years.

Some 75 female brokers, including named plaintiff Judy Calibuso, had in a Nov. 29 court filing objected to the "meager'' settlement amount and "weak programmatic relief.''

They claimed that approval would represent a "huge step backwards'' that would "enshrine'' and perpetuate discrimination by Merrill and its Wall Street rivals.

Calibuso, a Miami-area broker who had worked since 1995 for Bank of America and a predecessor, had been the only one of the five lead plaintiffs to oppose the settlement, which involved no admission of wrongdoing by the bank, court records show.

She rescinded her decision to opt out of the settlement after a Dec. 20 hearing, the records show.

Rachel Geman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, in an email said she was "pleased we were able to resolve this matter.''

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Chen awarded Geman's firm and co-counsel at Outten & Golden more than $12.6 million to cover fees and costs.

Bank of America had no immediate comment. Lawyers for the objectors did not respond to requests for comment.

Bank of America, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, had 15,624 financial advisers as of the end of September. Its $160 million accord with black brokers is one of the largest by an employer on a U.S. racial bias lawsuit.

(Read more: Young women say sexism happens, but not to them)

The gender case is Calibuso et al v. Bank of America Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 10-01413.

—By Reuters

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