Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Ordered by FINRA Arbitration Panel to Pay $5M Over Allegedly False Promises Made To Brokers Recruited from UBS AG

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel is ordering Morgan Stanley Smith Barney to pay $5 million to Todd G. Vitale and John P. Paladino, two of the brokers that the financial firm had wooed from UBS AG (UBS) in 2008. The two brokers are alleging fraudulent misrepresentations, breach of written and oral contract, promissory fraud, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent omission and/or concealment, intentional interference with existing and prospective economic advantage, negligent omission and/or concealment, California Labor Code violations, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, promissory estoppel, constructive fraud, negligent supervision, and failure to supervise. They both still work for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

Both brokers were recruited a few months before Morgan Stanley merged with Citigroup Inc.’s (C) Smith Barney. Per the terms of their recruiting agreement, Vitale was promised that within six months of joining the financial firm he would become a salaried manager. Paladino would then inherit Vitale’s book, which would come with significant revenue.

After the merger occurred, however, a number of key management changes happened, and four years after they were hired, Vitale still hasn’t been promoted to manager while Paladino has yet to get his book. Also, Paladino’s monthly income has been reduced.

Ruling on the case, the FINRA arbitration panel awarded $2 million to Paladino and $2.6 million to Vitale. $355,000 in legal fees was also awarded to the two men.

This arbitration proceeding is one of numerous cases of late involving investment advisers claiming that financial firms had wooed them with promises that were never fulfilled. Brokerage firms often make verbal commitments when recruiting and they protect themselves by not including these agreements in the actual employment contract.

“Successful financial advisors and brokers can manage tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars of their clients’ assets and securities firms are willing to pay, or promise to pay, them millions of dollars to bring their clients’ accounts to a new firm,” said Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP Partners and FINRA Arbitration Attorney William Shepherd. “Just as firms are not always honest with investors, these firms do not always keep their promises to advisors and brokers. Because licensed representatives and their firms are required to sign agreements to arbitrate disputes, cases of this type must be decided in securities arbitration. Our law firm has represented both investors and investment professionals in securities arbitration proceedings in their disputes with financial firms.”

Meantime, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney has issued a statement saying that the financial firm’s disagree with the panel’s decision and the facts support the ruling. However, there are internal firm memos documenting the recruiting deal.

Former Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Brokers Win $5M Employment Dispute Arbitration Award, Forbes, June 20, 2012

Panel Says MSSB Must Pay Recruited Brokers $5 Million, Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2012

More Blog Posts:
Merrill Lynch to Pay Brokers Over $10M for Alleged Fraud Over Deferred Compensation Plans, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, April 5, 2012
Investment Advisers and Brokers Should Be Able To Explain in One Page Why an Investment Would Benefit a Retail Client, Says FINRA CEO Richard Ketchum, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 14, 2012

Securities Law Roundup: Ex-Sentinel Management Group Execs Indicted Over Alleged $500M Fraud, Egan-Jones Rating Wants Court to Hear Bias Claim Against SEC, and Oppenheimer Funds Pays $35M Over Alleged Mutual Fund Misstatements
, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 13, 2012
If you are a financial representative with a claim against a financial firm, contact our FINRA arbitration law firm today.