• Judge orders ‘confidential’ severance offer cut from records
  • Managing director alleges bank discriminates against women

Bank of America Corp. has persuaded a judge to remove from the public record a claim by an employee that she was offered $500,000 to settle a case alleging her boss ran a “bro’s club” that favored male employees.

Megan Messina, who was co-head of global structured credit products, sued the company in May, saying she was paid less than male coworkers and that the bank treated women as second-class citizens. In her complaint, Messina said she was offered a $500,000 severance in May 2015 in exchange for dropping claims she’d made in a discrimination complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and in a whistle-blower retaliation claim filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The judge overseeing the case Thursday agreed with Bank of America that earlier versions of Messina’s complaint should be removed from the public record and replaced by a redacted version. At a July 5 hearing, a lawyer for the bank argued to U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield that the severance proposal was a confidential settlement offer that shouldn’t be public.

“The redactions don’t affect the validity of my client’s significant claim of gender bias and whistle blowing,” said Jonathan Sack, a lawyer for Messina. Sack said the court ordered the parties to mediation and the two sides are working “in earnest” toward a resolution. 

William Halldin, a spokesman for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank, declined to comment on the judge’s ruling. He said Messina is still employed by Bank of America.

Compensation Details

At the bank’s request, the redacted complaint will also exclude details of compensation paid to other bank employees, the names of Bank of America clients and privileged communications between Messina and the bank’s lawyers as part of their investigation of her claims.

The bank has denied Messina’s allegations and insisted that the term "bro’s club" was never used by her supervisor or other managers but was invented by Messina and her lawyers. Bank of America said it immediately began a probe of the Messina’s claims of misconduct at the bank. At a July 5 conference in the case, the bank’s lawyer, Joseph Baumgarten, said talks between him and Sack “most definitely were settlement agreement communications,” according to a transcript of the proceeding.

According to Messina’s suit, her male supervisor made it clear she wasn’t welcome and consistently excluded her from e-mails, meetings, dinners and get-togethers with the 10 men he oversaw.

Messina also accused the bank of front-running -- or trading ahead of client orders -- lying to customers and manipulating prices. She said that when she complained of the practices, she was placed on forced leave and barred from returning to her office.

Messina claims she’s due $8.25 million in back pay plus unspecified damages and future pay.

Bank of America said Messina didn’t raise her concerns when she met with a senior executive and a human-resources representative and instead focused on dissatisfaction with her supervisor’s management style.

The case is Messina v. Bank of America Corp., 1:16-cv-03653, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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