Former Wall Street executive sues over age bias

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NEW YORK (AP) — A former Morgan Stanley executive who earned as much as $1 million annually sued the company for age discrimination Wednesday, saying it ignored his distinguished, highly acclaimed 25-year career in firing him at age 55.

Edward M. Sullivan brought the $30 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court. He alleged that a “smear campaign” by two of the company’s personnel department workers led to his May 2006 firing, costing him $800,000 to $1 million in annual earnings.

In the lawsuit, Sullivan, now 56, said he should be awarded damages for the loss of compensation, bonus money, prestige, future earnings “and ultimately his 25-year career.”

A spokesman for Morgan Stanley Inc., the second-biggest investment house on Wall Street, said the lawsuit was “absolutely without merit” and would be contested “vigorously.”

“This individual’s job was eliminated as part of a legitimate business reorganization that had nothing to do with age,” spokesman James Wiggins said.

The lawsuit said the personnel executives substituted their “own made-up poison-pen critique of Sullivan in place of the legitimate evaluations of him in order to create a paper trail upon which he would be fired.”

The executives created false and defamatory statements about Sullivan’s job performance before strong-arming senior managers into incorporating them into his review, the lawsuit in Manhattan said.

Sullivan had worked for the company since December 1981, when he was hired as a branch manager in Burlington, Vt. After repeated promotions, he in 1999 became a managing director, a position he held until he was fired.

In 2005, Sullivan’s region was cited by the company as the business group demonstrating the highest performance in terms of risk, control and legal expense, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit alleged that the firing occurred amid a “gaping leadership vacuum” at the company that resulted from a change in top leadership.

It said age discrimination could be inferred by the circumstances of the firing and the wording of his reviews, including that Sullivan had been “slow to embrace” new company principles and “has not recognized the changing control environment and has had some judgment issues that have raised concern.”

Since his firing, Sullivan has been unable to find a comparable job, the lawsuit said.

AP-ES-01-03-07 1637EST

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