But current and former employees say not much has changed. The bank has been sued by at least eight former employees in the past four years (not counting Ms. Booker), most of whom worked as financial advisers and did not hold managerial positions. In court filings, they described being kept off teams formed by their white colleagues, deprived of business leads those colleagues routinely shared among themselves and left out of meetings with potential new clients.
Ms. Booker also experienced incidents of racism, according to her lawsuit. In 2013, when she proposed creating a mutual fund with a minimum buy-in of $5,000 that could be marketed in black communities with the help of the black TV host Steve Harvey, the bank’s chief marketing officer told her that Mr. Harvey was not “consistent with our brand or our audience.”
(The fund was eventually launched — without Ms. Booker’s involvement — but it was described as a way to attract millennials.)
Still, Ms. Booker thought she could make a difference, especially where Morgan Stanley’s financial advisers were concerned. Their job was to attract new clients — wealthy individuals or well-endowed institutions — and manage their investments for them. They would eventually earn all of their money from commissions on these investments and trades. The black advisers needed extra support, Ms. Booker argued, because the isolation they routinely suffered as new recruits, often fresh from college, was making it nearly impossible for them to survive the bank’s three-year training program.
She called her plan Project Genesis. Mr. Krouk, she said, initially seemed enthusiastic, assigning two analysts to work on Ms. Booker’s team. She soon had them combing through black wealth management trainees’ records and identifying areas where they could use more support, as well as determining how much it would cost the bank to provide that support. Mr. Krouk insisted that the wealth management division’s chief operating officer and its head of diversity be involved as well.
But Ms. Booker was thwarted in her attempts to present the idea and her findings to executives other than Mr. Krouk, according to her lawsuit. The chief operating officer and the diversity head started canceling meetings with her. She found it harder and harder to speak to Mr. Krouk. And whenever she brought it up, she was told Mr. Krouk would have to hear her presentation first and approve it.
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