updated 7/7/2004 11:46:48 AM ET 2004-07-07T15:46:48

A sex discrimination trial against Wall Street brokerage Morgan Stanley was postponed Wednesday just before jury selection was to begin.

A note posted outside the courtroom said the judge delayed the trial so he could “consider and resolve legal objections” related to witnesses in the case.

There was no indication that last-minute settlement talks were under way. Other high-profile bias complaints against brokerages have been settled out of court, but talks in the Morgan Stanley case collapsed last year.

The jury selection was postponed until Friday, with opening statements pushed back to Monday, said a clerk for U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman said.

Morgan Stanley did not immediately return a call for comment, and a spokesman for the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which brought the case, was not immediately available.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC alleged a pattern of discrimination that denied scores of women promotions and higher salaries given to less productive men.

The agency was expected to call about two dozen women to testify. Some have told the EEOC that the firm withheld raises and desirable assignments from women who took maternity leave.
Former bond seller Allison Schieffelin says Morgan Stanley condoned a hostile workplace where men made sexist comments and organized trips to topless bars and strip clubs.

Women were excluded from the outings, she said, which sometimes included her clients. She eventually filed a complaint with the EEOC, which sued the firm.

In a pretrial hearing Tuesday, Judge Berman accused lawyers of bogging the case down with endless bickering over witnesses and evidence, including more than a million e-mails.
“This is the most litigious, contentious and voluminous — unnecessarily so — record of any case I’ve ever had,” the judge said.

Schieffelin, who made $1.35 million in 1998, was fired in 2000 after claiming she was passed over for a promotion to managing director.

Morgan Stanley “destroyed my career,” Schieffelin, 42, said after the suit was filed. “They destroyed everything that I had put my heart and soul into for 15 years.”

Morgan Stanley has denied the allegations in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.

The firm contends Schieffelin was fired after initiating “an abusive confrontation” with her boss, a woman who got the job over which Schieffelin sued. Company officials also deny any pattern of gender bias, saying “mutual respect and nondiscrimination are core values here.”

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