National briefs: Bank of America in bias accord

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NEW YORK -- Bank of America has agreed to pay $39 million to women who worked in its Merrill Lynch brokerage operation, another costly settlement of a discrimination case filed by its employees.

The agreement, filed Friday evening in a federal court in the borough of Brooklyn, was the second by the nation's largest bank over 10 days. Last week, Merrill Lynch told a federal judge in Chicago that it would pay $160 million to settle an 8-year-old racial discrimination suit filed on behalf of 700 black brokers.

With the new agreement, Merrill will have paid out nearly half a billion dollars to settle employee discrimination claims over the past 15 years.

The case settled Friday was originally brought by women who had worked in the brokerage division of Bank of America, but it was amended to include women who were brokers at Merrill Lynch after the bank bought Merrill. The money is expected to be divided among as many as 4,800 current and former employees of the two brokerage operations.

Merrill, which has about 15,000 brokers worldwide, also agreed to change its policies to give women a better chance of succeeding.

BP claims probe urged

NEW ORLEANS -- A former FBI director recommended Friday that the Justice Department investigate whether several lawyers plotted to corrupt the settlement program designed to compensate victims of BP's 2010 Gulf oil spill.

But the independent probe led by Louis Freeh didn't find any evidence of wrongdoing by the multibillion-dollar settlement's court-appointed administrator, who has been a target of BP's increasingly aggressive campaign to challenge payouts to Gulf Coast businesses.

Mr. Freeh, who was appointed by a federal judge to investigate alleged misconduct by a staff attorney who worked on the settlement program, cleared claims administrator Patrick Juneau of engaging in any "conflict of interest, or unethical or improper conduct."

The report also found nothing that warranted shutting down payments to victims of the oil spill, which spewed millions of gallons of oil into the water, fouling marshes, fisheries and beaches from Louisiana to Florida.

Rape-case sentence ruling

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Montana's Supreme Court issued a ruling Friday to block a district judge's attempt to modify a previously imposed monthlong prison sentence for a teacher convicted of raping a student.

The Supreme Court decided that Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh cannot move forward with a hearing that had been scheduled for Friday afternoon to void the 31-day prison sentence that he imposed last week on Stacey Rambold.

Rambold, 54, was convicted of raping a then-14-year-old student who killed herself while the case was pending.

-- Compiled from news services

nation


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