An industrial tribunal upheld a complaint by James Curry that he had been unfairly dismissed and was the victim of racial discrimination when he worked as an executive director at Goldman Sachs. Mr Curry, a Harvard Graduate, who is African-American, claimed he had been hired - and then fired - because he was black.
But a spokesman for the bank said the company did not agree with the ruling and was reviewing its options.
Peter Sutherland, the chairman of Goldman Sachs, said: "Goldman Sachs has taken very seriously the complaint which alleged racial discrimination.
"However, after a thorough review conducted by management and legal counsel, we concluded that this allegation was without foundation both with respect to the firm and any particular individuals. As a consequence, we do not agree with the ruling by the tribunal and we are reviewing the options open to us."
During the hearing in May at Stratford, east London, Mr Curry, 43, wept as he said how his salary had slumped from pounds 800,000 in 1993 to pounds 270,000 the following year. He was sacked three years later for alleged "deteriorating performance" after complaining to partners about racism.
The panel also upheld a complaint of direct racial discrimination by Mr Curry's former manager, Bruce Young. On one occasion Mr Curry was told that one of his colleagues would be more suitable for a certain type of work because "he talks and looks more like the people who would be coming from those areas".
Mr Curry, who now works as a managing director for Merrill Lynch on a starting salary of about pounds 500,000, claimed he was employed as a "token black" because American institutions were keen to be seen to be employing people from ethnic minorities. Reacting to the ruling yesterday, he said: "This is the first stage of my battle. The tribunal have yet to decide the amount of my compensation.
"I am, however, delighted with what we have achieved so far. Bringing this case was the most difficult decision of my life.
"What has sustained me throughout this time was the thought that this was not just about me. I hope this will encourage and promote fairer employment practices within Goldman Sachs."
A spokesman for the bank said later that 6 per cent of the staff at Mr Curry's former level in London, and a quarter of Goldman Sachs employees worldwide, were from ethnic minorities.
"Discrimination on any grounds is and always has been strictly forbidden by our business principles and standards of practice," he said.
"Goldman Sachs is a global firm and that means it is and must remain, a truly multi-cultural and multi-ethnic enterprise.
"Our diversity is essential to our strength and it will become more so as we continue to seek out the very best individuals to join us and serve our clients."