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J.P. Morgan tells black advisor Harlem is ‘right fit’ for him, advisor sues for alleged discrimination

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An African-American registered rep who was encouraged but declined to take a position as an advisor in a low-producing Harlem branch of J.P. Morgan Chase has sued the bank for alleged racial discrimination.

Francis Abanga at the time was covering four more affluent branches in the New York neighborhoods of Castle Hill and Parkchester and did not want to relocate to Harlem because his business was growing and his four branches were doing well, he claimed in a lawsuit filed in federal court.
What’s more, he alleged, the Harlem branch did not manage as much money.

Less than two months after refusing to take the position, his supervisor reassigned the two Castle Hill branches he had been covering for almost three years to a Hispanic individual who was not as qualified as Abanga, according to the lawsuit.

Abanga was “completely baffled” as to why the two Castle Hill branches were taken away from him and surmised that the bank wanted a Hispanic individual to cover the largely Hispanic neighborhood, his attorney, Lauren Goldberg of New York, said in the complaint.

The snub was one of many ways in which the bank severely limited his career because of his ethnicity, Abanga alleged.

After his Castle Hill branches were reassigned, he inquired about openings in Fort Washington on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a predominantly Jewish and Hispanic enclave, and Throggs Neck in the Bronx, which was mostly Indian, Pakistani or white. Both were profitable branches that managed a considerable amount of money.

His supervisor told him outright that he could not apply for either of the two positions because “the demographics would not support him,” Abanga said.

The Fort Washington position was eventually given to a Hispanic individual who was no more productive than Abanga and the Throggs Neck spot was filled by an Indian individual with lesser qualifications, according to the lawsuit.

“Knowing that his career would be severely limited with defendants because his ethnicity/color/race would dictate where he could be placed, plaintiff felt forced to leave,” Goldberg said.

Before resigning from his post in September 2017, Abanga claimed he spoke to the regional director of Banking and Wealth at J.P. Morgan about his supervisor’s refusal to allow him to apply to certain branches based on his belief that “he would not be a good fit in those locations because of the demographics and his ethnicity.”

The executive agreed with the supervisor, saying Harlem would be the right fit for Abanga.

Liz Seymour, a spokeswoman for J.P. Morgan Chase, declined to comment due to pending litigation.

The lawsuit rebuked the bank for subjecting Abanga to disparate treatment, denying him the same privileges as those enjoyed by employees who were not black, and making conditions so intolerable that Abanga felt that he had no choice but to end his employment with the bank.

The bank’s “actions were intentional and with reckless regard of plaintiff’s rights,” Goldberg charged in the lawsuit.

Abanga worked for J.P. Morgan in the Bronx from October 2014 to September 2017, according to his BrokerCheck report. He had worked previously for the bank from October 2007 to October 2012, first as a personal banker and later as a financial advisor.

Abanga, who now works for Citigroup Global Markets, could not be reached for comment. His attorney did not respond to an email message seeking any updated information on the recently filed case.

Abanga is seeking an award in an amount to be determined at trial to compensate him for monetary and other damages, including the loss of past and future income, wages, compensation and benefits. He is also seeking compensation for severe mental anguish, anxiety, stress, humiliation, embarrassment and emotional distress.

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