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Morgan Stanley Is Sued by Outside Recruiter Alleging Race Bias

Anthony Fletcher's lawsuit claims that Morgan Stanley hired his candidates without his knowledge, depriving him of commissions.

(Bloomberg) -- Morgan Stanley was sued by an external recruiter who claims it discriminated against him because he is Black, short-changing him on commissions he earned in placing diverse candidates at the bank — even as it treated them with racial bias as well.

Anthony Fletcher said in his lawsuit that the bank hired his executive search firm, which specializes in diversity, in 2015 to boost its efforts to recruit racially diverse candidates. Within a year, it had hired half a dozen African American candidates he recommended, according to the suit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Chicago. 

Read the lawsuit here

Despite this initial success, he alleges, the Wall Street firm hired a number of his candidates without his knowledge, depriving him of commissions. When he complained, it cut his rate from 33.3%, the industry standard, to 20%, he claims. Morgan Stanley ended his contract last year, according to the suit.

Morgan Stanley said the suit had no merit.

“We categorically reject the allegations of this complaint which is based on a fee dispute with an external recruiter whose contract was terminated,” the firm said in a statement. “Morgan Stanley remains steadfast in our commitment to build a workforce that is inclusive and diverse.”

Among the lawyers representing Fletcher is Ben Crump, who won a $27 million settlement with Minneapolis for the family of George Floyd after a police officer murdered him in 2020, and a $12 million settlement for the family of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in Louisville, Kentucky, by police carrying out a “no knock” warrant at her home in 2020.

According to the suit, a Morgan Stanley executive director asked Fletcher to help him make a diverse hire for a client service associate. Fletcher alleges that when he asked what types of skills he was looking for, the executive director said the candidate must be “willing to laugh at his insensitive and inappropriate jokes, and leaned on racial stereotypes about a Black CSA’s ‘cultural fit,’” and demanded that the candidate not look “like they just came into the office from a late-night party.”

Fletcher claims his Black job candidates were regularly required to accept lesser roles than those they had just held at a competitor. By contrast, he alleges, Morgan Stanley routinely hired White candidates into lateral positions or higher posts than their previous jobs.

He claims Morgan Stanley paid him less for his work because of his race and, despite being designated as a “preferred vendor,” he was treated worse than non-Black third-party recruiters. Two weeks after a meeting in which he discussed his treatment and his complaints, he says, Morgan Stanley terminated his contract.  

Fletcher reported this treatment to the firm’s board of directors and to Chief Executive Officer James Gorman but never heard back, according to the suit. 

The case is Anthony Fletcher v. Morgan Stanley & Co., 23-cv-02769, US District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).  

--With assistance from Max Abelson.

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