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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., gave final approval Monday to a $31 million settlement by American Express Co. of an age and sex discrimination lawsuit. Four thousand female financial advisers could receive compensation. Four women who filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October 1999 were later joined by 13 more in what became a class action suit alleging they were unfairly denied promotions and pay. The women said the financial services giant created a “glass ceiling” for female financial advisers by giving lucrative accounts and steering leads on prospective clients to male advisers, and by favoring men in training, mentoring and promotion. American Express denied the allegations and said it settled the suit to avoid expensive litigation. “We don’t believe we discriminated against women advisers. … But we worked on the settlement diligently and we feel it’s fair and reasonable,” said Marie Davis, a spokeswoman for the subsidiary involved, American Express Financial Advisors Inc. U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy in Washington, D.C., approved the settlement, which was filed with the court in January and tentatively approved by him in March. In addition to paying $31 million, which will go to eligible employees and cover attorney fees, American Express also agreed to begin mandatory diversity training and hire a diversity officer for its financial advisers subsidiary. The company also must ensure that 32 percent of new hires for its financial adviser team are women. Bill O’Brien, one of the attorneys representing the women, on Monday called the settlement “a fair resolution of the claims.” Another plaintiffs’ attorney, Lawrence Schaefer, said American Express “should be commended for focusing its energy and resources on eradicating barriers and on enhancing opportunities for women financial advisers rather than on litigation.” Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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