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Edward Jones to Pay $34M in Racial Bias Suit

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What You Need to Know

  • The suit alleged that Edward Jones denied advancement opportunities to Black advisors because of race.
  • The settlement provides monetary awards and “meaningful programmatic relief to increase opportunities” for Black advisors.
  • Edward Jones says it's committed to better support advisors of color and has stepped up diversity initiatives in recent months.

Edward Jones has agreed to pay $34 million to settle a racial bias class-action complaint filed in May 2018 by a Black former financial advisor.

Wayne Bland, who was with Edward Jones from 2014 to 2016, had alleged that Edward Jones “employs company-wide policies and practices regarding training, compensation, partnerships, and the assignment of territories, business opportunities and sales support that unlawfully segregate its workforce and deny African Americans the income and advancement opportunities because of their race.”

The lawsuit was later amended to add two other plaintiffs who had worked for Edward Jones: Felicia Slaton-Young and Nyisha Bell. Bell is currently a representative for Wells Fargo, according to her report on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck website. Bland is no  longer registered as a broker or RIA. Slaton-Young is still registered as an advisor but not as a broker.

The settlement provides a fund for class members’ monetary awards, attorneys’ fees and service awards, and “meaningful programmatic relief to increase opportunities” for a class of African American and Black financial advisors employed by Edward Jones, according to a settlement document filed March 19 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

“We reached this agreement because it is in the best interest of Edward Jones and allows our firm to move forward,” an Edward Jones spokesperson told ThinkAdvisor on Thursday.

The company remains “committed to creating a place of belonging for our associates and our clients and making a positive impact in our communities,” according to the spokesperson. “In recent months, as many U.S. companies renewed their commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, Edward Jones announced a five-point commitment focused on equitable hiring, training, promotional practices and policies to better support financial advisors of color at the firm.”

Edward Jones “pledged to continue working toward meaningful increases in diversity among our financial advisors and senior leadership — helping all to succeed,” the spokesperson said. “The settlement includes measures Edward Jones is taking to report diversity progress to its leadership team, create a financial advisor council with diverse representation and reduce training cost obligations.”

Bland and the attorneys at the Chicago law firm Stowell & Friedman, who represented the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Pictured: Wayne Bland

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