If you asked a layperson, they would probably guess that job opportunities for people of color have never been better, and that corporations are getting more racially diverse. But that's not always the case, especially in the financial sector. Bloomberg reports that major banks have been losing more and more black workers every year, and JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., has seen its share of black employees drop six consecutive years, from 16 percent in 2011 to 13.4 percent in 2017.
Those numbers were reported along with a $24 million settlement between JP Morgan and six current and former employees who claimed the bank's discrimination against black financial advisors was "uniform and national in scope."
The lawsuit, which sought class action certification, alleged that white advisers at JPMorgan were assigned to wealthier places while their black colleagues were sent to less lucrative branches. Black advisors had fewer licensed bankers to support them, were mostly kept out of a program for richer clients, and got paid less, according to the suit. "These racial disparities," the plaintiffs claimed, "result from Chase's systemic, intentional race discrimination and from policies and practices that have an unlawful disparate impact on African Americans."
While JPMorgan denied any "wrongdoing of any kind whatsoever," the bank did agree to pay $19.5 million to the members of the proposed class, and put $4.5 million towards recruitment, bias training, branch assignment review, and a coaching program for black advisers. "This settlement eliminates the need for litigation, allowing us to continue our focus on a diverse and inclusive environment," spokesperson Tom Kelly told Bloomberg. "We will enhance the careers of our black advisers."
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, echoed those sentiments and claimed the firm is making progress. In an April 2016 letter to shareholders, Dimon asserted he would "dramatically step up our effort" to hire more black employees. Whether those efforts will bear results, and fewer discrimination lawsuits, remains to be seen.