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Pursuits

The Man Who Took On Merrill

George McReynolds sued Merrill Lynch for racial discrimination and won an historic settlement. Then he went back to work
The Man Who Took On Merrill
Photograph by Jono Rotman

“I’ll give you as much time as you want,” George McReynolds drawls, leaning back in his chair in his Nashville office. That, he says, has been his philosophy during the 30 years he’s worked as a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch. At 69, he’s a slow-and-steady kind of guy: He’s lived in the same home for almost four decades; he never takes his tan Chevy Malibu over the speed limit.

But McReynolds couldn’t wait forever to be treated equally by his employer. Over the years at Merrill—he started there in 1983—McReynolds had gotten used to inequities small and large. With only a few fellow black brokers in the Nashville office, he felt isolated. Often excluded from work social events, he took to eating lunch at his desk; if he was out, he says, the receptionist sometimes told callers he didn’t work there. He also noticed that the other African American financial advisers at Merrill were rarely top producers—meaning they generated less business than their white colleagues—though they seemed to work as hard as everybody else.