Betsy Whipple, a former Merrill Lynch stockbroker, levied a blistering complaint against the brokerage firm last month. Whipple, who originally worked for Morgan Stanley, boasted a book of business worth over $20 million. The complaint accuses Merrill Lynch of gender discrimination but lists a number of other complaints that range from theft of services to breach of contract.
When Whipple began at Merrill Lynch, the firm miscoded her commission at institutional rather than retail rates. Instead of making between $900 and $2500 per transaction, she was only making between $97 and $200. Whipple claims she was being paid far less per transaction than she should have been and much less than she was making at her former job. It also prevented her from attaining bonuses. She is estimating the discrepancy at over $1 million.
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Among one of Whipple’s chief complaints is that she brought in a prospect worth $5.5 million. She said Merrill Lynch refused to allow the account to settle because it was an institutional account. This forced the prospect to transfer to Bank of America Institutional, which is affiliated with Merrill Lynch. She ended up losing both the account and the commissions.
Whipple also claims that she received an email from a supervisor claiming she could open the account, but when she went to look for it, it was gone. She claims it had been erased from her hard drive. She asked an assistant manager what had happened and Whipple claims that the assistant manager cornered her and screamed at her, telling her that she was a liar who made things up.
Whipple was placed on “heightened supervision” where she continued to voice complaints over her commission on the $5.5 million account and over the fact that she was not receiving the commission that she believed she should be receiving. She also voiced concerns that her male counterparts were making more money than she was.
She was eventually fired.
Whipple claims that there is systemic gender bias in the corporate culture of both Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. Further, she claims that Merrill Lynch only hired brokers in order to filch their clients. Once they had done so, they fired them.
Nevada prohibits pay gaps that are based on sex or gender, so Whipple’s case appears to be a winner if she and her attorney can prove that Merrill Lynch denied her similar pay to her male colleagues despite her credentials. Also troubling is the allegation that Merrill Lynch recruited brokers only to pilfer their clients. If true, this could lead to several more lawsuits against the firm.
Likely, however, Whipple and her attorney will quietly settle the case and Merrill Lynch will get off the hook for that aspect of the complaint without having to admit wrongdoing. But future recruits will likely be wary about leaving their current positions to work for the company.
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