Veteran Journalist Susan Antilla Discomforts Wall Street Over Racism

June 22, 2021

There was a time when journalism was a venerated profession -- when professional journalists plied their trade, covered a beat, and knew what they were writing about. Sadly, all that now seems a lost art. In this age of social media, the concept of "news" is outdated. After all, whatever happens that's newsworthy is posted online by somebody within seconds of the occurrence, and often with video. Fact checking? In-depth analysis? That's so ten seconds ago. What passes for journalism today is more often clickbait with the telling of the story a secondary concern and the primary concern now the all-important catchy headline. But there are exceptions; and one such exception is Susan Antilla, who is an award-winning investigative journalist, veteran financial columnist, and the author of the groundbreaking 2002 book "Tales From the Boom-Boom Room: The Landmark Legal Battles That Exposed Wall Street's Shocking Culture of Sexual Harassment." Two decades later, Antilla is still walking the Wall Street beat, where she unapologetically pulls the curtain back on things that folks don't want displayed. In Antilla's most recent foray: The Dangers of Working While Black on Wall Street / You're unlikely to get hired. From there, you're less likely to get promoted, and more likely to be fired. (The Nation by Susan Antilla / June 21, 2021), she presents us with an uncomfortable challenge:

Whether sincere or motivated by image concerns, Wall Street's heightened passion for addressing the racism in its midst has opened an important conversation about recruitment, promotion, and pay policies in one of the nation's most lucrative businesses. Missing from the dialogue so far, though, are some 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?

In Antilla's compelling The Nation article, she presents, in part, the struggle of Glenn D. Capel, an African-American stockbroker for Merrill Lynch. Capel, who had two Masters degrees, joined the firm in 1999. While employed at Merrill Lynch at its Greensboro, NC branch, Capel was the only black financial advisor among the 40 so employed in that role; and he was one of only two Merrill Lynch financial advisers in the combined North and South Carolina markets. In 2006, Capel became a Plaintiff in the racial discrimination Class Action of McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch. He was fired by Merrill Lynch in 2009. In 2013, Merrill Lynch settled the class action by paying $160 million to 1,200 plaintiffs. Sure, Capel got a chunk of that settlement; on the other hand, his career in the industry was in tatters and his good name was trashed. As Antilla picks up the trail:

Capel is still looking for a Wall Street job, but the industry is vowing to change. In the wake of last summer's unrest, Merrill parent Bank of America and other giant financial institutions rushed to make commitments to racial justice and in several cases broke an industry-wide silence, releasing statistics that exposed the paucity of Black people and other minorities in their workforces. Merrill, for instance, revealed in August that 780 of its 17,500 brokers are Black, a figure of 4.5 percent. That's a 125 percent increase since 1994, when 2 percent of its brokerage force was Black. But in an industry with sparse Black representation, it is easy to double or even triple a minority group's numbers. More illuminating is that the Black segment of the firm's brokers-also known as financial advisers-grew only 2.5 percentage points over those 26 years.

Bill Singer's Comment

The thing about Glenn Capel's story is that it's not all that uncommon. It is part of the fabric of Wall Street. It is something that makes those in power in the biz uncomfortable to talk about, so they either pretend it doesn't exist, or, if you confront them, their eyes glaze over and their lips press tightly together. Some will say that there's been progress. Sure, you can say that. Talk's cheap. But too often the progress is diluted. Compromised. And more often than not, the road on that highway of progress is littered with the wrecks of careers such as Glenn Capel. The thing with victims such as Capel is that they tend to be deemed unfortunate but acceptable collateral damage. He got a few bucks from settlements of his lawsuits. Hey, good for him, but let's not get all tied up with the unfortunate stories of the likes of Glenn Capel. It's sad. Too bad. But we've made progress. Let's just move on, okay? Ummm, no, it's not okay. Never was. Still isn't. This isn't a cost-benefits analysis. This is a man's life.

When Wall Street's regulator's sense public outrage, they are quick to run into the spotlight. Publicity tends to drive regulation (for better or worse). Look at the recent bevy of investigations and lawsuits about so-called meme stocks, Robinhood, and crypto. When Glenn Capel was fired by Merrill in 2009, there weren't any meme stocks. Robinhood Markets, Inc. didn't exist. Crypto was in the process of being born. When it comes to racism, when it comes to sexism, we are dealing with issues that predate meme stocks and discount trading apps and cryptocurrency by decades . . . by generations. Where were Wall Street's regulators when sexism and racism was rampant? Where was the outrage of Wall Street's regulators?  Where were the regulatory complaints? And where are the regulators now?

What would have been the avenue of attack? On what could Wall Street's regulators have premised an investigation? For starters, this would have perfectly served the task:

FINRA Rule 2010: Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade

A member, in the conduct of its business, shall observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.

For many on Wall Street, sexism and racism are far from new concerns. No, some of us have raised Wall Street's dirty little secrets for years. 

Why Is The NYSE And NASD Soft On Racism And Sexism? ( Blog /  March 9, 2006)

Please, show me the cases those regulators brought in the past 50 years in which member firms were charged with permitting racial or sexual discrimination/harassment. And what's the message? The regulators unwittingly encourage intolerant behavior by not deeming these practices to be conduct that offends basic notions of "high principles" and "honor." Do the SROs see such conduct as nothing more than an indiscretion? 
. . .

I hear these heart-rending stories virtually every day when I am contacted by potential clients. If this cancer is tolerated by Wall Street's regulators, how will we ever destroy it? If the NYSE and NASD see fit to bar folks from the brokerage industry because they have had felony convictions for drunk driving, then it's high time we roll out the same artillery to combat illegal discrimination.

Women And Minorities On Wall Street: Part Two ( Blog /  November 17, 2008)

We now have Barack Obama set to enter the White House. We have Mary Schapiro at the helm of FINRA.  About 13% of the U.S. population is described as African-American. About 4% is described as Asian (a far more expansive category than South Asian). About 51% is female. I'd love to see the actual statistics, but I'll bet you that I'm right about the following:
  • 51% of FINRA member firm stockbrokers are not women;
  • 13% of FINRA member firm stockbrokers are not African-American; and
  • 4% of FINRA member firm stockbrokers are not Asian.
( Blog / January 11, 2021)

If FINRA and its undistinguished Board of Governors truly cared about protecting the industry's employees and ensuring that its members lived the credo of "conduct consistent with just and equitable principles of trade," then the self-regulatory-organization would have promulgated a rule that enshrined the civil rights of the industry's men and women, and, accordingly, Rule 13201 should have insisted that no employment agreement could contain a mandatory arbitration provision pertaining to "statutory employment discrimination claims." 

Securities Industry Commentator:
A legal, regulatory, and compliance feed
curated by veteran Wall Street lawyer Bill Singer

SEC Charges ICO Issuer and CEO With Fraud and Unregistered Securities Offering (SEC Release)

Can the SEC Make ESG Rules that are Sustainable? (Speech by SEC Commissioner Elad L. Roisman to the National Investor Relations Institute /2021 Virtual Conference)

FINRA Fines and Suspends Rep for Using Correction Fluid
In the Matter of Robert Brandon Prettyman, Respondent (FINRA AWC)

FINRA Fines and Suspends Rep for Falsifying 22 Variable Annuities Forms
In the Matter of Eric P. Burton, Respondent (FINRA AWC)

Veteran Journalist Susan Antilla Discomforts Wall Street Over Racism ( Blog)

Attorney Convicted of 28 Counts in FusionPharm Fraud Case Loses Federal Appeal ( Blog)

BREAKING NEWS: Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., et al. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, et al. (Opinion, United States Supreme Court, No.20-222 / June 21, 2021)

The Dangers of Working While Black on Wall Street / You're unlikely to get hired. From there, you're less likely to get promoted, and more likely to be fired. (The Nation by Susan Antilla)

Veteran Journalist Susan Antilla Discomforts Wall Street Over Racism ( Blog)

Pro Se Customer Claimant Awarded Damages in E*Trade Failure to Execute Arbitration
In the Matter of the Arbitration Between David White, Claimant, v. E*Trade Securities LLC, Respondent (FINRA Arbitration Award)

Two Architects Of Fraudulent Scheme Sentenced For Processing Over $150 Million Through U.S. Financial Institutions (DOJ Release)

Stock Promoters Charged In "Pump And Dump" Securities Fraud Scheme (DOJ Release)

SEC Charges Minnesota Man with Running a Pump-And-Dump Scheme (SEC Release)

SEC Order Determining Whistleblower Award Claim (Award Denied)

SEC Order Determining Whistleblower Award Claim ($4 million Award)

SEC Order Determining Whistleblower Award Claim (Two Awards)

Attorney Convicted of 28 Counts in FusionPharm Fraud Case Loses Federal Appeal ( Blog)