Merrill Lynch has sued a defendant named only as “John Doe”, alleging that the person impersonated one of the brokerage's regional administrative managers and sent racially denigrating emails to civil rights leader Al Sharpton and several black investment brokers at the firm. According to the suit, "[t]he e-mails sent by defendant contain explicit racial remarks that are meant to be offensive to the African-American employees of Merrill Lynch."
The defendant, who has not been identified but is believed to be based somewhere in the U.S. Midwest, began sending racially charged emails in September, according to the complaint filed on October 30, 2007, in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The emails were delivered from a Hotmail account, allegedly opened in the manager’s name, and were made to appear to have been signed by the manager. David Bowermaster, a Microsoft spokesman, said the company protects the privacy of its customers but will comply with court orders, including subpoenas and search warrants, adding that the company "opposes discrimination in any form and will take swift action when it learns its products or services are being used in an abusive or harmful manner."
In addition to seeking an order to stop the dissemination of the email messages, Merrill Lynch has also sued for trademark infringement, fraud and defamation, seeking unspecified damages. Sharpton has also indicated he is seeking to join the suit.
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