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Court Rules Against Ex-Merrill Manager’s Bias Appeal

January 5, 2018

A former Merrill Lynch regional manager lost his appeal claim of judicial bias in his trial alleging the wirehouse discriminated against him because he’s Mormon, Law360.com writes.

J. Brent Arave filed suit in California in May 2011 alleging Joseph Holsinger, his supervisor, and Katherine Anderson, a Merrill Lynch human resources manager, had asked him to apologize for his religious beliefs and that he was denied a promotion because he was a Mormon, the legal news website writes. In a total of seven claims, Arave also named both Merrill Lynch and its parent company Bank of America in the suit, Law360.com writes.

In his original claims, Arave said several of the wirehouse’s employees made anonymous discriminatory comments about the firm hiring too many Mormons and about Arave “preaching” at work, according to InvestmentNews. Arave had been bringing on new recruits from his alma mater, Brigham Young University, which is affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gloria Trask ruled in favor of Merrill Lynch on Arave’s whistleblower retaliation claim and the discrimination claim against Anderson, according to Law360.com. Arave voluntarily dismissed his claim for wrongful termination while a jury ruled in favor of Merrill Lynch on the remaining claims, the legal news website writes.

Arave then appealed in the Fourth Appellate District court, but a three-judge panel this week rejected “dozens” of complaints about Trask’s handling of the trial, including allegations the judge had “negative personal views” on Arave’s lawyers in the trial and that Trask prevented the introduction of evidence favorable to Arave while allowing Merrill Lynch to disregard orders about excluding other evidence, according to the legal news website.


Nonetheless, the panel directed Trask to revisit the $180,000 she ordered Arave to pay to Merrill Lynch, arguing Arave should not be on the hook for $83,000 for the wirehouse’s costs and expert witness fees, Law360.com writes. The panel also overturned a $97,500 attorney’s fee award related to Arave’s unpaid vacation time claim, according to the legal news website.

A Merrill Lynch representative tells Law360.com the company is pleased with the appellate court’s decision. The website wasn’t able to reach Arave’s representatives for comment.

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the Law360.com article cited in this story, click here.