Brokerage Firms Can be Liable for Age-Discrimination Against Brokers.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices in investigating cases where brokers have been treated unfairly by their firms.  A growing issue for financial advisors is when they are pushed out of their firms or treated unfairly simply for getting older. When this happens, brokers can file age discrimination lawsuits against their former employers.

Judith Bovitz, a 70-year-old financial advisor with Wells Fargo, sued her employer last year for age and gender discrimination. She claimed Wells retaliated against her by transferring her to a smaller branch office when she complained that younger, male advisors were being assigned more lucrative accounts, according to Reuters. She had a $100 million book of business at the time of the lawsuit. Bovitz spent her 34-year career at Wells and its Prudential Securities predecessor. “I’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year because other advisors were given accounts,” Bovitz told Advisorhub.com. “I’m sick and tired of being passed over.” The company said it is “reviewing” Bovitz’s allegations.

In 2011, Wells Fargo Advisors, the wealth management unit of Wells Fargo & Co. agreed to pay $32 million to settle a gender bias class-action suit with about 3,000 women advisors. The women claimed that compared with their male advisor counterparts, female advisors were “provided fewer business opportunities by the company. The women also claimed that female advisors were impaired by limited career advancement, work assignments and distribution of accounts,” one of the ways firms chose to shift customers to younger, male advisors.

Age discrimination cases have been soaring in recent years as workers in all industries simply get older. Between 1997 and 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received from 16,000 to 19,000 filings a year. But since 2008, the complaint total is more than 25,000 annually. Most discrimination suits never see a jury. In a majority of recent age discrimination suits, broker-dealers have chosen to settle the litigation out of court, reports FinancialAdvisorIQ.com. “In 12 of 19 such lawsuits filed since January 2015,” the website found, “the wirehouses have either settled, or told courts without further explanation that they and the plaintiffs jointly agreed to dismiss the claims, court records show.”  “Wirehouses are inclined to settle if financial advisors claim discrimination led to their termination and forced them to forsake multiple years of future earnings, raising the threat of eight-figure liabilities for employers.”

Financial advisors are protected by federal laws barring discrimination based on age, gender and religion. They can sue their employers if they can show that their job was adversely impacted – or were fired – due to their age. This is a particular issue in the securities industry, where many advisors are 40 or older and therefore qualify for protection under federal anti-age discrimination laws. About one-fifth of FAs are 65 or older, and the average age is 55, according to a 2019 survey by market research consultant JD Power, notes FinancialAdvisorIQ.

Stoltmann Law Offices has represented advisors in cases against securities brokerage firms. Please contact Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C. at 312-332-4200 for a free, no obligation consultation with a securities attorney. Stoltmann Law Offices is a contingency fee law firm which means we do not get paid until you do!

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