Fired Morgan Stanley Broker/Self-Help Author Sues, Claims Discrimination
A Morgan Stanley broker terminated two weeks ago for publishing a book about his early life as a fast-talking impostor has filed a lawsuit alleging that the firm’s true motive was not reputational damage but discrimination over his status as a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.
Craig Schmell, 55, who spent almost one-third of his 26-year brokerage career at Morgan Stanley, filed a civil suit in Superior Court of New Jersey in Monmouth County on Monday evening, citing a state discrimination law.
Schmell, whose co-written autobiography, “The Uninvited: How I Crashed My Way into Finding Myself,” was published on Tuesday by a Simon and Schuster imprint as an inspirational self-help book, said his branch manager in Red Bank, NJ, and a compliance official twice warned him he would be fired if it went to print.
Although he removed references to Morgan Stanley, his hard-drug use and an arrest as a teen-ager after they reviewed the manuscript, they told him in August that the book “creates a reputational risk” for the firm and for him, according to the complaint.
In an interview and in the suit, Schmell and his lawyer said the chronicled events occurred more than 30 years ago and denounced Morgan Stanley’s alleged reputational concerns as hypocritical.
“Defendant’s stated reason for Plaintiff’s termination–reputational harm–is undermined by Defendant’s own unlawful conduct and fines which place it [in] the national news cycle on a regular basis,” the lawsuit says. It cites some $4.7 billion of fines assessed against Morgan Stanley by regulators since 2014, most of which did not involve the firm’s wealth management arm.
“Defendant never had any intention of permitting Plaintiff to publish the book or continue his employment once apprised of his status as a recovering addict,” the lawsuit said.
A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman declined to comment.
For 21 years at Morgan Stanley, Legg Mason Wood Walker and three smaller firms, Schmell said he had been a “star producer” generating $3 million annually in some years. He declined to discuss his recent production, saying that he took a six-month leave of absence earlier this year to work on the book and to wind up the sale of a fitness center business that he said Morgan Stanley was fully aware of.
The lawsuit, which said Morgan Stanley was unaware of Schmell’s past drug and alcohol abuse until he provided Shaw a draft of his manuscript in June, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.