Women advocate, antitrust litigator, Bettina Plevan, dies at 75

By Ilya Sachs, CNN • Updated 7th July 2011

Bettina Plevan, a litigator who championed women in the corporate world, has died after a battle with cancer. She was 75.

Plevan was an antitrust litigator at the firm of Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich who helped shatter several glass ceilings, including one that limited women to positions in bank boards, law firms, and for one famously female lawmaker, the Supreme Court.

Plevan founded a group of former directors of the Federal Reserve in the 1990s who met monthly to share information on bank investigations.

When critics, including politicians and the Fed’s then chairman Alan Greenspan, charged that the meetings violated the bank’s policy of not collecting information about bank internal matters from outside parties, Plevan pushed for the Fed to open the group to all people on the public payroll who weren’t company employees.

She said the Fed was holding too much information back, but not enough if she could help it.

“It could be an unfair advantage to companies that pay to have the benefit of the group and not to the firms that have to pay their executives money to contribute to the group,” Plevan told CNN in 1999.

She also led the groundbreaking fight to include women on the bench.

Her win for women on the Court of Appeals Court was one that she lamented was lost in an era of partisanship. She said at the time that until 1985, few women had ever served on federal judgeships, although law firms had the full court and worked for years to reduce the number of cases being placed on it by male lawyers.

Not only were Plevan’s efforts encouraging but they also cost her dearly in some ways. She started out representing only women. When she discovered a new flock of legal hopefuls looking for representation, she targeted other groups, including African-Americans and gay people.

He died on Sunday at her home in Virginia.

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