A Bluffton financial advisor 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 coworkers' 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, cripplilng 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.
Cherrington filed an internal complaint, but Campbell said it went nowhere. In January, she and business partner Michael Brostky left to join FSC Securities as Cherrington Brotsky Conscious Capital. Attempts Tuesday to reach them were unsuccessful.
Jockle said Cherrington "has evidently raised these issues again in an attempt to fend off a demand by Morgan Stanley that she honor the agreement she signed to repay millions the firm loaned to her during her employment."
While that amounts to about $6.7 million, Campbell said Cherrington and Brotsky deserve greater compensation.
"Certainly, this cost her and her partner an awful lot of money over those two years," he said. "Justice is what we want to accomplish."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.