Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Ordered to Pay 1 Million Dollars in FINRA Arbitration.

Posted by on Jan 7, 2013 in arbitration, FINRA, Marc's Blog | Comments(0)

We had the distinct privilege of representing Greg Torretta in an arbitration against Morgan Stanley Wealth Management (formerly known as Morgan Stanley Smith Barney). Greg worked for Morgan Stanley and its predecessor companies for 26 years. He started as a trainee with EF Hutton (When EF Hutton talks, people listen) in 1984. He kept going to the same job every day. The firm changed its name any number of times. But Greg kept working.

Greg was the perfect example of a company man. He relocated his family to Texas when the firm asked him (firmly) to take over the Houston branch complex there. He relocated to New York, and lived apart from his family, to be a Regional Director for Smith Barney (as his employer was called then). He waited patiently to find out if he had a job after the Morgan Stanley – Smith Barney merger. He took the job as complex manager of the Garden City, New York complex, which was a lower prestige position than Regional Director. But he kept at it.

He was asked to coach a subordinate manager and see if he could be salvaged. He did what he was asked. But he eventually realized that this manager just wasn’t going to make it in the MSSB system. He recommended a termination, which he could have done all along. MSSB dawdled a bit. The manager sensed that Greg was going to fire him. So he took aggressive action to save his job. He and MSSB sacrificed Greg in the process. Greg felt that he wasn’t handled the same way that other employees had been treated in similar situations. And he felt that, after 26 years with the same company, he deserved a bit of consideration.

MSSB would have none of that. A swift decision was made that Greg would either resign or be fired. He resigned, having never been fired from a job before. He thought for a few months and then he hired a lawyer. Notice I didn’t say that he “found” a lawyer. He didn’t find us. I’ve known Greg for almost as long as I’ve been in Florida. I coached his younger daughter in soccer. I was honored that he came to my firm for representation.

We started to work on the case. While we were investigating, MSSB realized what Greg knew all along — the branch manager must be fired. MSSB fired the manager for the very reason that Greg wanted to fire him. But it was too late, and corporations are not well-known for saying they’re sorry.

We filed the arbitration. MSSB answered the claim. We had four and a half days of hearings last September and November. We demonstrated that Greg had big damages. These weren’t made up numbers but real facts. People at Greg’s level within MSSB are well-compensated. The hearing was hard-fought. Opposing counsel was a good lawyer. And he had quite an impressive track record. From what I could tell, he didn’t lose very often.

The arbitration award showed up in our office late Friday afternoon. The arbitration panel awarded Greg $1,000,000. That’s a lot of zeroes. But Greg deserved it–and more. But most of all, Greg felt vindicated. He felt that the panel saw what he knew to be the case, that Morgan Stanley had obligations and didn’t fulfill them. That he had been mistreated. And he saw that, despite its many critics, at least this time the system worked.

Yes, winning feels better than losing. Anyone who denies that is lying. But winning for a client who you genuinely like and respect is a reward on a different level. We were glad that we got Greg some relief. We can’t unwind history, but can tell Greg that the panel agreed with him. And that’s what arbitration is all about.

Every case is different. Every arbitration panel is different. Every client is different. I could lose a big case tomorrow. But last Friday, when I was talking to Greg, I was glad to be a lawyer and glad to be his lawyer.

That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida. I’m Marc Dobin.

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