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Wells Fargo Advisors Investigates Plaintiff’s Allegations of Sex and Age Discrimination

By Miriam Rozen May 14, 2019

Wells Fargo Advisors has postponed responding to a lawsuit brought by one of its financial advisors, 69-year-old Judith Bovitz, who alleges the wirehouse discriminated against her on the basis of her sex and age.

“Wells Fargo is still in the process of investigating the allegations,” Cameron Smith, a lawyer in the New York office of Seyfarth Shaw, which represents the wirehouse, writes in a May 7, 2019 letter to the court.

In the letter, the lawyer asks the court to extend a deadline, which had been set for May 14, an extra 45 days, until June 27. The presiding judge granted Smith’s request on May 9.

Bovitz, a 34-year veteran of the financial services industry who has $100 million in assets under management and worked for WFA for the past 15 years, claims she “has maintained an outstanding performance track record” with her employer. But WFA has persistently “subjected” her to “a discriminatory work environment based upon her age and sex,” she alleges in the lawsuit filed in February in a Manhattan federal court.

After she complained about alleged disparate treatment in March 2018, WFA apparently relocated her from an office in Albany, N.Y., to another, smaller office in Saratoga Springs — a 40-minute drive away. WFA required her to transfer in retaliation for her complaining about biases, Bovitz alleges.

A WFA spokesperson writes in an emailed response to FA-IQ’s inquiry about the delay: “We have nothing to add.” For a previously published FA-IQ story about Bovitz’s lawsuit, WFA issued the following statement: “Wells Fargo Advisors takes these allegations seriously and the company is reviewing. We have a process for redistribution of client accounts following a financial advisor’s departure known as FABR (Financial Advisor Book Reassignment) and Ms. Bovitz participated in that process.”

Bovitz alleges WFA provided “an inequitable distribution of accounts.”

Specifically, her lawsuit states: “Wells Fargo provided lucrative accounts to younger male employees. This practice has cost [Bovitz] additional opportunities and compensation to which she is entitled.”

Her lawyer, Robert Barravecchio of Garden City, N.Y.’s Valli Kane & Vagnini, recommended “not reading too much into this” current development. Previously, he told FA-IQ Bovitz’s claims stem from “deep-rooted discrimination against women in the financial services industry.”

In her lawsuit, Bovitz alleges her former manager “plainly stated to her on at least one occasion that he preferred younger employees.” He told her, “They have what others in the office don’t have — youth,” according to Bovitz’s lawsuit.

She told WFA’s human resources department about inequitable distribution of accounts five years ago, but the same practices continue today, Bovitz alleges.

(Getty)

As recently as February 2018, when two male employees left, their accounts were distributed inequitably to younger, male employees, she alleges.

Her transfer to the Saratoga Springs office has meant she has only “old, scratched furniture, which is an embarrassment when meeting with clients,” she alleges. She also lacks a television to monitor financial markets, she alleges.

With her lawsuit, Bovitz seeks back pay, front pay, compensation for emotional damages, and punitive damages.