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Former advisor wins $500,000 FINRA arbitration award against Wells Fargo

A Merrill Lynch investment adviser who handles money for high-profile union pension accounts won a $500,000 arbitration award last month against his former employer whom he had accused of trying to ruin his reputation in the wake of his departure.

The victory comes seven years after the adviser was sued in federal court by Wachovia Securities just after he left the firm for Merrill Lynch, taking with him two employees and roughly $2 million in annual revenue.

Movement between brokerage firms is commonplace in the securities industry, where good advisers are always being recruited by competitors. The disputes that follow typically end up being settled amicably out of court or before an arbitrator.

The adviser alleged that Wachovia Securities, which became Wells Fargo Advisors in 2009, went out of its way to paint him as the villain in the lawsuit and a subsequent arbitration case, both of which were dismissed.

He also claimed a Wachovia broker made false statements about his handling of client documents in a meeting with a client days after his departure, in an attempt to try to wrestle the account from him.

The allegations formed the basis for the complaint filed against Wells Fargo in 2009 with FINRA, a non-government group that regulates the brokers and settles industry disputes.

In the complaint, the adviser alleged that he had been subjected to slander and “malicious prosecution” by Wachovia and Wells Fargo.