Loyal readers (who may be wondering if I had lost interest in the blog) will recall that Chase Investment Services lost an arbitration to Morgan Keegan and Todd Rozzo in March of this year. Chase tried to enforce a contract against a former WaMu broker, Rozzo, and his new employer, Morgan Keegan. My firm represented Morgan Keegan.
It turns out that there was a very similar case in Seattle, Washington. Chase, again, went for an injunction. Chase, again, acted as if the world was going to end if the brokers were allowed to talk to their clients. Chase, again, initiated an arbitration against the former brokers. And Chase, again, lost the arbitration.
Maybe Chase will get the message that I have detected. Absent some horrific set of circumstances, such as bad acts by the departing brokers or raiding, arbitration panels do not get excited about the run-of-the-mill changing of jobs. For Chase to behave like a child complaining about not getting his/her way is just bad business. Brokers change firms. Chase needs to get over it.
This does not mean that, in the right set of circumstances, an arbitration panel won’t award damages. It simply means that it has to be something more egregious than simply changing jobs. Having the manager and several brokers leave at the same time could be sufficient. Deleting data on a computer system could be sufficient. There are any number of bad acts that could lead to liability. But if a broker leaves “clean”, the likelihood of a firm prevailing in an arbitration is pretty slim.
That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida. I’m Marc Dobin.