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In the wake of last summer’s unrest, giant financial institutions rushed to make commitments to racial justice—in several cases breaking an industry-wide silence, releasing statistics that exposed the paucity of minorities in their workforces. (Black people make up 13 percent of the US workforce, but they occupy only 2.9 percent of financial adviser jobs.)
Whether sincere or motivated by image concerns from intense public pressure, this newly heightened passion for addressing racism opened an important conversation about recruitment, promotion, and pay policies in one of the nation’s most lucrative businesses.
Missing from the dialogue, though, are key questions: When racism does occur, how do firms treat Black employees who complain? And what happens to Black people when they take their complaints to arbitration or to court?
Award-winning investigative journalist Susan Antilla scoured court records looking for patterns in how firms handled grievances; spoke with academics, employment lawyers, and other experts; and mined a securities regulator’s public database to see how Black people fared in closed-door arbitration—a process forced on many Wall Street workers to protect their employers from public exposure in court.
The Nation’s investigation, in partnership with Type Investigations, found that financial firms go to great lengths to keep complaints of racial discrimination quiet and push complainers out the door. Companies often play hardball with those who complain—we documented several serving written warnings to the victim rather than to the perpetrators. And Black people who are forced to use Wall Street’s arbitration system face bleak prospects: Our analysis of over three decades of data shows that among Black people who filed racism complaints, one settled and only two prevailed.
Antilla details specific instances of rampant racism, harassment, and disparaging comments from New York to New Hampshire to North Carolina, across Fidelity Investments, Deutsche Bank, Edward D. Jones, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, and—most egregiously—Morgan Stanley. More strikingly, she reveals how little the nature of racism allegations by Black people on Wall Street has changed over the years.
Read the full report here.
ABOUT: Susan Antilla is an award-winning investigative journalist and author who has written about employment discrimination and investor fraud for publications including The New York Times, Bloomberg, and USA Today. She is author of the #MeToo book on sexual harassment on Wall Street: Tales From the Boom-Boom Room: The Landmark Legal Battles That Exposed Wall Street’s Shocking Culture of Sexual Harassment, which The New York Observer called “a work of compelling Wall Street anthropology.”
This story was reported in partnership with Type Investigations with support from the Puffin Foundation. Research assistance by Hannah Beckler.
Founded by abolitionists in 1865, The Nation has chronicled the breadth and depth of political and cultural life from the debut of the telegraph to the rise of Twitter, serving as a critical, independent, and progressive voice in American journalism.