WASHINGTON -- Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., has asked the General Accounting Office to determine whether securities firms, self-regulatory agencies, and the SEC can take steps to prevent brokers from discriminating against women investors.

Markey, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications and finance, made the request in a letter sent to comptroller general Charles Bowsher yesterday that complained that the Securities and Exchange Commission appears to have been unsuccessful in confronting the issue.

Pointing to a new survey by Money magazine, Markey said discrimination against women investors appears to be on the rise in some cases, even though the SEC took steps to combat the problem a year ago.

The SEC asked self-regulatory agencies to examine the issue at Markey's request after a Money magazine survey in 1993 revealed there were major differences in the way brokers treated men and women investors.

Despite the SEC action, a follow-up survey done by the magazine in June 1994 "suggested that not only had gender bias on the part of brokers not abated in the intervening year, but that it had in some regards accelerated," Markey told the GAO.

Markey suggested to Bowsher that he is not happy with a Sept. 7 letter from SEC chairman Arthur Levitt in which Levitt noted that such discrimination is not a violation of securities laws, but said the SEC has asked the National Association of Securities Dealers to "notify members of their obligations in this area."

The SEC has also asked a securities industry council to consider including such issues in its continuing education programs, Levitt told Markey in the letter.

"While I do not seek to question the SEC's commitment to equal treatment of investors, I am concerned that such mild hortatory gestures as those contained in" the Levitt letter "are insufficient to stem the sort of discriminatory behavior detailed in" the surveys conducted by Money magazine, Levitt told Bowsher.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.