A senior female employee of the Bank of America has sued the lender for allegedly misleading its trading clients and discriminating against her and other women. In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan Monday night, 42-year-old Megan Messina — a managing director at the bank — reportedly called it a “bro's club of all-male sycophants” and accused it of front-running trades.
Messina also accused the bank of treating her “like a summer intern” and women in her position as “second-class citizens” by paying them significantly less than their male peers. According to media reports, the lawsuit alleges that not only did Messina’s bosses exclude her from emails and meetings that her male colleagues and her clients attended, they also paid her significantly less for work “requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility.”
The lawsuit states, without providing a source for the figures, that in 2015, Messina received a bonus of $1.55 million while a male colleague with the same title — who she reportedly outperformed — received a bonus of $5.5 million. The complaint also states that in her eight years at the Bank of America, Messina had been underpaid by $8.25 million.
“As the only woman in a sea of men,” Messina “never stood a chance to be included and therefore never stood a chance to succeed,” the lawsuit reportedly states.
This is not the first time a Wall Street giant has been accused of gender bias. In 2008, Citigroup agreed to shell out $33 million to settle a bias suit filed by female brokers at its Smith Barney unit. Prior to that, in 2007, Morgan Stanley announced that it would set up a $46 million claims pool to settle a gender bias suit filed by several former financial advisers.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal survey of the pay gap across 446 major occupations in the U.S., women in most white-collar professions still earn way below their male counterparts. Female financial advisers, for instance, earn roughly $62,000 a year while their male peers earn about $100,000.
In addition to the gender discrimination, Messina also accused employees at the bank of “front-running” — a practice wherein brokers trade ahead of client orders — and doctoring trading records to mislead one of the bank’s major clients, Pacific Investment Management Co.
When Messina raised concerns about the “unlawful, unethical and improper practices,” she was allegedly put on a forced administrative leave.
"BofA intentionally and deliberately discriminated and retaliated against Messina for following the mantra, 'If you see something, say something,'" the complaint said.
“We take all allegations of inappropriate behavior seriously and investigate them thoroughly,” a spokesman for the bank reportedly said in response to the lawsuit.