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Judge OKs $160M Settlement In Racial-Bias Case Against Merrill Lynch

(CBS) – An eight-year legal saga ended Friday when a federal judge approved a $160 million settlement between Merrill Lynch and African-American financial advisers who said they had been discriminated against.

"There were many times when we didn't think this day was going to take place," co-plaintiff Rocky Howard said following the settlement.

More than 1,400 black financial advisers from all over will take part in the settlement with the financial giant. Plaintiffs had alleged that the playing field at Merrill Lynch was not even for minority brokers.

"A large portion of my book, the assets I had under management, was taken from me and given to two white brokers – rookies," lead plaintiff George McReynolds said.

It was the largest race-discrimination class-action settlement in history, netting an average of more than $111,600 for the workers.

Merrill Lynch agreed to take part in a three-year program designed to improve conditions for black workers.

The firm says the program "will enhance opportunities for financial advisers in the future."

"Hopefully, down the road, the new African Americans coming into the firm will see the positive effects of this lawsuit," former Merrill Lynch financial adviser Frankie Ross says.

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