Gender-Bias Suit Brought Against Standard & Poor’s

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NEW YORK—A lawsuit filed by a former managing director at Standard & Poor’s alleges that the company discriminated against women as it reorganized following the 2007 credit collapse.

Rosario Buendia, in a complaint registered on March 6 in the New York State Supreme Court, contests that subsidiary Standard & Poor’s, McGraw-Hill’s structured-finance group, “favored male employees” and paid her “considerably less than her male counterparts, despite her exemplary performance.” According to the complaint, Standard & Poor’s has replaced at least five female executives with men. These replacements came during of four rounds of job cuts, which eliminated over 500 positions.

Buendia, 43, seeks $5 million in compensatory damages, as well as a $15 million punitive award.

In the wake of over $1 trillion worth of subprime mortgage-related losses, the financial industry has cut jobs. Some labor attorneys claim, however, that the job reductions are merely a front for discriminatory treatment of women, minorities, and older workers.

Representatives for both companies dismissed these claims as without merit, citing S&P Executive Vice President Vickie Tillman as an example of a woman in an executive position. Company spokesperson Frank Briamonte said in a statement that McGraw-Hill is a company “recognized for treating employees fairly and valuing the contributions of its workforce,” and added that the company would defend themselves against the suit.

Although S&P doesn’t report employment by gender, insiders report that several high-level female executives have recently been replaced or reassigned, and that at least three female managers in the structured-finance arm of the business have had their company phone numbers disconnected. McGraw-Hill refused to comment on the status of these employees.

A prominent NY-area labor attorney says that during the current financial meltdown, women are disproportionately losing their jobs. Gender-based bias claims against other major corporations, such as Citigroup, Inc. and the U.S. branch of Tokyo-based Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, have also been brought in court.

The lawsuit brought by Buendia claims that she was wrongfully terminated on August 11th of 2008, along with two other female executives and one man. The male executive was later rehired, according to the lawsuit. Buendia’s responsibilities had included overseeing S&P’s global business of rating mortgage-backed securities, or investment pools of credit card debt, equity lines and mortgages.

Neither Buendia nor her attorney, Matthew Schatz of Schwartz & Perry, LLP, could be reached for comment.

 

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