Morgan Stanley bias trial is delayed for `a few days'

Lawyers deny making request to the judge

July 08, 2004|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

NEW YORK - The judge presiding over a bias suit accusing Morgan Stanley of discriminating against its female employees yesterday delayed the start of trial for "a few days."

Jury selection had been scheduled to begin yesterday in New York in the first government suit to accuse a Wall Street bank of gender bias. Shortly after 8 a.m., U.S. District Judge Richard Berman posted a note on his courtroom door saying he'd postponed the case "a few days" to resolve outstanding legal issues.

Berman said the parties asked for the delay. Lawyers for Morgan Stanley, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and former bond trader Allison Schieffelin, whose complaint to the agency initiated the case almost six years ago, denied making the request. The EEOC enforces laws against workplace bias.

"Nobody on our side had any clue," said Wayne Outten, the lawyer for Schieffelin, who was in court with her parents and supporters awaiting the start of trial.

Berman said he put off the trial to review Morgan Stanley's objections to rulings late Friday by a magistrate judge. Among U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis' rulings were some barring the firm from offering testimony from expert witnesses about pay and gender stereotyping. Morgan Stanley filed documents yesterday opposing the rulings, and the EEOC responded.

Ellis also said Friday that Schieffelin, who claims she was unfairly denied a managing director's post, may present an actuary's testimony that her lost earnings ranged from $33 million to $72 million, depending upon the factors used to calculate her wages. Schieffelin's trial against Morgan Stanley for damages would follow the EEOC trial.

Schieffelin, who made $1.35 million in 1998, was fired in 2000 after claiming she was passed over for a promotion. Morgan Stanley denies the EEOC's charge, saying there was no systemic bias and that Schieffelin was fired for initiating a confrontation with her boss.

The EEOC is pressing claims on behalf of Schieffelin, 42, and as many as 340 other women in Morgan Stanley's institutional equity division who, the agency says, were paid and promoted less than men at the world's No. 2 securities firm.

Jurors in the trial will decide whether Morgan Stanley discriminated and whether to impose damages of up to $300,000 per woman. Also, women may seek back pay in subsequent hearings if the EEOC proves at trial that there was a "pattern and practice" of discrimination in the division.

Other brokerages, including Smith Barney Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co., have faced civil claims by individual women alleging that they tolerated sexual harassment. Those cases were settled out of court with no admission of wrongdoing.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.