Compliance Officer at Florida Indie Wins Defamation Claim and Money
A 21-year veteran compliance officer won her argument that she was defamed in regulatory filings by the independent broker-dealer where she last worked, and won $140,000 from the broker-dealer and the president of the firm’s affiliated “office of supervisory jurisdiction.”
Beverly Hunnewell filed an arbitration complaint more than two years ago alleging wrongful termination and defamation by Park Avenue Securities, its Guardian Life Insurance-affiliated National Planning Corporation that operates four insurance and financial planning offices in and around Miami, Florida, and subsequently added National Planning President Jeffrey E. Newman and another executive as respondents.
National Planning, which is unrelated to the independent broker-dealer holding company National Planning Holdings, and the other parties moved to dismiss the claims toward the end of the case on the grounds that an independent contractor “cannot bring a claim….for wrongful termination,” according to the award decision posted late Tuesday on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s dispute resolution website.
The arbitrators denied the motion to dismiss, without explanation, but ruled that Park Avenue and Newman were liable for defamation, ordered them to pay Hunnewell $140,000 in compensatory damages and to re-submit two Form U5 regulatory submissions that contained “untrue and defamatory” reasons for her dismissal. They made no determination about National Planning since it is not a broker-dealer and Finra member.
The three arbitrators did not spell out the disputed allegations made in the regulatory filings but wrote that they were satisfied that Hunnewell’s “performance was well within the parameters established by Respondent Park Avenue and that Claimant had not, in fact, retired.”
The arbitrators ordered the termination explanations on the U5 regulatory filings to be expunged and replaced with the message: “There was no cause for the termination.”
Hunnewell, whose LinkedIn profile says she began her career at Merrill Lynch where she rose to resident administrative manager for its 10-office “Miami Tropics” complex and played a “vital role in building equity sales in a manner consistent with the regulatory and compliance standards that apply,” could not be reached for comment.
Her LinkedIn profile says she was an “agency compliance officer and principal of Park Avenue Securities’ OSJ National Planning.”
Her lawyer, Curtis Carlson, did not respond to a request for comment.
The arbitration panel denied Hunnewell’s claims of age discrimination, wrongful termination and violations of Finra’s standards of commercial honor, among other claims, along with her request for interest. It did not explain what the interest request was based on or address her claim for punitive damages.
Hunnewell’s BrokerCheck profile shows no complaints over her 21 years as a registered person, and does not indicate that she lost her position with Park Avenue Securities, where she worked from 2009 to 2014. It says she is not currently registered as a broker.
Newman said Wednesday morning that he could not immediately comment on details of the case because he had not read the award decision. Hunnewell had sought more money in the arbitration, he said, but added: “$140,000 is a big amount when you have to write the check.”