The broker who won a $34 million class action bias claim against Edward Jones & Co. is speaking out about his case and efforts to improve diversity in the financial industry, AdvisorHub reports.
Wayne Bland was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that ended with a settlement approved by a U.S. District Court judge in Illinois in July. Bland, an African-American financial advisor who left Edward Jones in 2016, alleged that the firm employed policies and practices that unlawfully segregated its workforce and denied African-Americans income and advancement opportunities because of their race.
As part of the settlement of Bland’s litigation, Edward Jones agreed to convene an advisory panel to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and a focus group to help increase representation and opportunity for African-American advisors.
In his interview with Advisor Hub, Bland described efforts to achieve greater racial diversity in the firm and the industry overall as moving slowly but “moving in the right direction.” He added that he provides support to other minority financial advisors who face their own career challenges as they try to overcome inequities in the wealth management profession.
Bland said he has drawn encouragement about the prospects for greater diversity at Edward Jones from the hiring of the firm’s first female chief executive officer Penny Pennington in 2019, calling it “a great change.”
He also noted another sign of progress: a program begun at the firm to pay extra compensation to advisors who transfer client relationships to women advisors and those of color. Bland said the inequities in transferring assets was one of the motivating factors in deciding to file the lawsuit.
The class-action settlement with Edward Jones applied to about 800 current and former financial advisors.
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