Financial Institutions Continue to Victimize Women

Bank of AmericaA senior female executive has sued Bank of America for gender discrimination in Manhattan federal district court.

Megan Messina, co-head of global structured credit products, complains that women at Bank of America are paid significantly less and treated like “second-class citizens.” Messina joined Bank of America in 2007 and was promoted to managing director in 2011. 

Allegations of Unequal Pay

Messina alleges that she was paid less than half of the salary of a man who shares her title, earning $7.25 million from 2013 to 2015 compared to her coworker’s $17 million.  She also claims that, although her boss told her that she had outperformed an equivalent male counterpart, he received a bonus 3.5 times the size of hers this past year. In 2015, Messina received a $1.55 million bonus, while this male colleague with the same title received $5.5 million. Messina estimates that she has been underpaid by $8.25 million while at Bank of America. 

Messina claims that her male supervisor repeatedly excluded her from emails, meetings, and events that her 10 male counterparts and her clients were invited to. According to Messina’s complaint, when she complained about this treatment and filed whistleblower complaints, Bank of America retaliated against her. Messina is now on administrative leave.

$6 Million and Protection from Retaliation

Messina, 42, is a single mother and the sole custodian of three children, ages 11, nine, and six. She is seeking at least $6 million for being underpaid, unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, and an order barring Bank of America from discriminating and retaliating against her. 

Spokesperson for Bank of America, Bill Halldin, stated that Bank of America “take[s] all allegations of inappropriate behavior seriously and investigate[s] them thoroughly.”

Messina’s lawyer, Jonathan Sack stated “[t]he bank is condoning bad behavior, and blaming the victim... It’s one thing to pay women less, but another to reward crookery.”

The case is Messina v. Bank of America Corp., 1:16- cv-03653, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). Messina has also filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Commission and a complaint with the Labor Department alleging whistleblower retaliation. Messina alleges that she told her supervisors that she witnessed illegal and unethical trading practices, qualifying her as a whistleblower under the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law.

Similar Lawsuits

Messina’s lawsuit is not unique. Several other large financial institutions have been the subject of gender discrimination lawsuits over the past several years.

In 2008, Citibank paid $33 million to settle a suit brought by the female brokers of its Smith Barney subsidiary, alleging that the company continued to discriminate against female workers after a sexual-harassment settlement in 1997.

In 2007, Morgan Stanley set up a $46 million claims pool to settle the sexual discrimination lawsuit brought by former financial advisors who claimed that the firm paid females employees less than their male counterparts and gave them fewer opportunities for promotions.

In 2005, UBS AG was ordered to pay $29.3 million to a former saleswomen in a sex discrimination case. That case subsequently settled. 

(Photo Credit: "Bank of America" by Mike Mozart is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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