Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Citigroup Confirms $33 Million Gender Bias Settlement

Citigroup Confirms $33 Million Gender Bias Settlement

By Jonathan Stempel

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New York - Citigroup Inc on Friday confirmed it agreed to pay $33 million to about 2,500 current and former female brokers at its Smith Barney unit to settle a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit.

The agreement also requires the largest U.S. bank to change how it awards bonuses and assigns accounts, and to adopt measures to help retain and promote women, papers filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco show.

Citigroup and the plaintiffs further agreed on the appointment of a diversity monitor, and of an "industrial psychologist" to oversee how the bank implements changes, court papers show. The changes are to remain in force at least four years.

"We're pleased to have this matter moving toward final resolution," spokesman Alexander Samuelson said. "We are committed to continuing to provide a professional and respectful work environment to all of our employees."

The plaintiffs had accused Smith Barney in the original March 2005 complaint of preventing female brokers from competing fairly for new accounts, promotions and pay, and of depriving women of equal training and sales support.

They also accused Smith Barney of using past performance as a means to award business and pay - putting women who had been discriminated against in the past at a disadvantage.

It is not immediately clear how many of the brokers still work for New York-based Citigroup. A hearing on the proposed settlement is set for April 30, court records show.

Citigroup and the plaintiffs had substantively agreed on the monetary portion of the settlement last summer, but needed more time to work out additional remedies, court papers show.

Many Wall Street banks and brokerages have faced and settled gender bias lawsuits over the years.

In one well-known case, Smith Barney settled accusations a decade ago by women who alleged that men harassed them with fraternity-house antics in the "Boom-Boom Room," a basement space in a Smith Barney branch in Garden City, New York.

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