A mother-daughter broker team won a $1.98 million sex-discrimination arbitration award from Merrill Lynch, as the brokerage giant got dinged—again—for allegedly mistreating its female reps.
In a decision handed down by an independent three-person NASD arbitration panel on Nov. 7, Audrey Gould, 72, and her two daughters, Georgeanne Moss and Ellen Gould Baber, were granted the large cash award after filing a complaint that they had been discriminated against because of their gender.
“The Goulds were unlawfully treated and driven out of the company,” says Mary Stowell, a partner in the Chicago law firm Stowell & Friedman, which represented the Goulds in the arbitration case.
The trio accused Merrill management of going to great lengths to ensure that they could not compete fairly with male brokers, including failing to provide sales assistant support, undermining their relationship with clients and levying fabricated compliance charges against them.
In their suit, filed with the NASD in February 2003, the Gould family argues that Merrill routinely awarded men first dibs on new customers, as well as the best clients of departing brokers. They also alleged that Merrill’s policies discriminated against pregnant women who go on maternity leave. Merrill managers “actively demeaned and belittled the Goulds to their clients and colleagues on a regular basis, just because of their gender,” according to the complaint.
“We respectfully disagree with the panel's decision,” says Merrill spokesman Mark Herr. “We do not tolerate discrimination at Merrill Lynch.”
The Goulds, who left the firm in 2000 because they feared being fired on a trumped-up charge, now run their practice at Wachovia Securities. Gould and her daughters had more than 1,000 clients with nearly $600 million in assets under management, generating about $5 million in production annually for Merrill.