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Stephen L. Carter

Citigroup Age Bias Lawsuit Pits 50-Somethings Against Each Other

Ex-employee Niels Kirk will have to prove his case again after a court suggested that the age of his replacement might be relevant.

A protected characteristic.

A protected characteristic.

Photographer: Amy Sussman/Getty Images

There’s a painful scene in Oliver Stone’s classic 1987 film “Wall Street” where a broker named Dan is fired, supposedly for “not pulling his quota.” Nobody on screen mentions age, but as white-haired Dan stands downcast, we’re meant to understand that he’s considered too old for the job. The message is driven home an instant later, when young star Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, is rewarded with a grand new office.

The scene comes to mind in the wake of headlines about Niels Kirk, a managing director at Citigroup, who sued for age discrimination after his dismissal. A UK appellate panel recently overturned an employment tribunal’s award of ₤2.7 million (about $3.2 million) to Kirk and the case will be reheard. Whatever happens when the case is ultimately decided, the litigation shines a useful spotlight on the way that prejudices about age linger throughout the professions in general — and in finance in particular.