Gay Bluffton financial adviser files grievance

03/26/2014 8:49 PM

03/26/2014 9:34 PM

A Bluffton financial adviser says her former employer, Morgan Stanley, discriminated against her for her openly gay lifestyle, costing her and her partner more than $10 million in income, their lawyer said.

From the time Lisbeth Cherrington began leading a Bluffton team for the global financial services firm in November 2011, she was plagued by rumors, special restrictions and other issues stemming from her co-workers’ disapproval of Cherrington’s sexuality, according to attorney Tom Campbell of Charleston.

In late February, Campbell filed Cherrington’s grievances with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which required Morgan Stanley to participate in arbitration.

Morgan Stanley communications director Christine Jockle said an investigation of Cherrington’s complaints found she had not been the subject of any discrimination. The company has also scored a perfect 100 for seven consecutive years in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index, according to Jockle.

Campbell said that’s just “lip service.”

“They put that in their paperwork and then they sit back and do nothing while people could be discriminated against all over the country,” he said.

In Cherrington’s case, the discrimination resulted in a breach of contract, Campbell said. The advisor had been hired because of her plan to hold about 36 seminars, which would draw in prospective clients with information on holistic financial planning. However, management created extra rules that applied only to her, crippling Cherrington’s ability to pull off half of the events, Campbell said. For example, other brokers’ lists of prospective clients were fed through a system that removed names already handled by other Morgan Stanley advisors. From there, invitations were mailed out. Cherrington, however, had to then get her lists approved by several people, Campbell said.

When the limitations were lifted in 2012, Cherrington still had other issues to contend with, Campbell said. Brokers gossiped that she was poaching clients, despite assurances from management that she had done nothing wrong. And while Cherrington planned to expand her team’s clientele to Charleston, outgoing calls to the area were blocked until October 2013, he said.

Over time, her income plummeted, Campbell said.

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