Christine Carona was a star broker at UBS Group AG. In the Boston office, she managed more than $300 million and was a member of the President’s Council, an elite club for top producers.
So it was headline news in the trade press when Morgan Stanley hired her last year. But another story played out behind the scenes. Carona left UBS because she alleges that the company and her male boss tried to block her career path.
Carona’s complaint, filed in 2017 with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, illustrates the persistence of such accusations among the nation’s more than 600,000 securities brokers.
In the 1990s, a famed class-action suit against Smith Barney described a locker room atmosphere in which brokers threatened to take female employees who displeased them to a basement “boom-boom room.”
Since then, gender discrimination has largely shifted from frat-boy behavior to subtler institutional barriers, employment lawyers say.
Women still account for only a third of securities brokers, a proportion that has barely budged for decades, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“I was denied the support I needed, required to take responsibility, financially and otherwise, for administrative support issues, and denied the opportunities typically presented successful male financial advisers,” Carona said in her complaint, which she withdrew in May while indicating her intent to file a lawsuit.
The dispute is now in arbitration, according to a person familiar with the proceedings who asked not to be identified because they are considered private.
UBS said it will defend itself against what it called baseless allegations. “UBS’s commitment to creating an inclusive, respectful and merit-based workplace is an integral part of the firm’s culture everywhere we do business,” spokesman Peter Stack said in a statement.
Carona’s central claim: the firm favors men in distributing lucrative client accounts, depressing women’s income.
Her complaint echoes allegations in earlier class-action lawsuits against Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup Inc.
Over the last decade, the companies separately settled those suits, while denying wrongdoing, for a combined sum of roughly $150 million and made reforms, such as giving branch managers less discretion in doling out business.
But lawyers say they still hear similar concerns.
“That plays out in various forms where women are not given the same opportunities in the office, or accounts are being taken away and given to other people and they are not getting accounts back,” said Shona Glink, an employment lawyer at Stowell & Friedman.