Morgan Stanley Settles Bias Suit, Puts Aside $46 Million for Claims

Morgan Stanley said it agreed to pay $46 million to settle a sex bias lawsuit accusing it of discriminating against thousands of female financial advisers by paying them less than male colleagues.

The New York-based investment bank and brokerage said its global wealth management group will institute programs in such areas as account redistribution, training and management development that are designed to enhance the success of female financial advisers.

It also said women alleging discrimination may submit monetary claims to a special master agreed to by both parties.

The class-action case was filed last June in the U.S. District Court in Washington by several former female brokers at Morgan Stanley. They accused the firm of steering lucrative accounts to male brokers, and offering promotions and more favorable training and mentoring to men.

A Morgan Stanley spokesman declined to comment. A lawyer for the plaintiffs did not immediately return a call for comment.

According to the settlement agreement, the wealth management group will make "significant" changes to how it assigns accounts, "including reducing reliance on historical factors and more heavily weighting criteria that reflect recent performance."

The agreement said the group will also hire a diversity monitor to review data and complaints, and to review how the company's human resources division handles complaints.

A federal judge must approve the agreement, which will remain in effect for five years.

Wall Street investment banks regularly face bias lawsuits.

In 2004, in a case involving bond trader Allison Schieffelin, Morgan Stanley agreed to pay $54 million to settle bias charges filed on behalf of hundreds of women who claimed they were denied raises and promotions and subjected to lewd behavior.