Morgan Stanley Sues $177-Mln FA in Atlanta Who Jumped to RBC
Morgan Stanley has brought another lawsuit against a million-dollar broker, asking a federal court in Atlanta to issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting a 31-year industry veteran who jumped to RBC Wealth Management two weeks ago from soliciting former clients.Benjamin Joel, who was managing about $177 million of client assets that were allegedly “assigned” to him as part of joint-production revenue split arrangements, repeatedly contacted Morgan Stanley customers “both before and after his resignation” using confidential information, in violation of his employment contracts, according to the filing on June 11 in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
Joel appears to have “absconded” with a Rolodex file, a wall calendar and a box of client account activity and action-item notes—old-school tools he used to run his “almost entirely paper-based” practice in lieu of a computer or electronic calendar, according to the court filing.
In most of its TRO requests since leaving the Protocol for Broker Recruiting 18 months ago, Morgan Stanley has accused departing advisors of downloading customer-contact information electronically.
An oral hearing on the wirehouse’s bid to restrain Joel and force him to return the allegedly stolen data within 24 hours will be held next Thursday, while arbitration complaints against him and RBC have been filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, said people familiar with the litigation.
Joel’s registered client associate, who attested she fielded calls from “several customers” who complained of having been “continuously” contacted by the broker, remains at Morgan Stanley.
Joel, who joined RBC solo on May 24 after more than 31 years with Morgan Stanley and predecessor firms Smith Barney and Lehman Brothers, did not return a call for comment.
A senior registered client associate listed on his RBC web page joined the firm in late May after 27 years with Merrill Lynch, according to her BrokerCheck record, while a second client associate is a long-time acquaintance of Joel’s who came out of retirement to help him with his business, said a person familiar with the practice.
Joel has no disclosures of complaints or regulatory or financial events on his BrokerCheck record.
RBC’s Atlanta-area complex manager, Chip Anderson, and an RBC spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.
Morgan Stanley has had mixed success in obtaining restraints against fleeing brokers, but some employment lawyers and outside recruiters said the lawsuits have had a deterrent effect on the firm’s more than 15,000 advisors.
A California court last week denied Morgan Stanley’s request for a restraining order against Brent Jacobs, who left for Wells Fargo Advisors in Oxnard last month. But the wirehouse prevailed in another TRO case last week against Robert David Pearson, who left on May 30 to join Raymond James in Dallas.
Morgan Stanley Wealth Management President Andy Saperstein asserted this week that advisor moves to competitors are at their lowest levels since the acquisition of Smith Barney a decade ago, despite the fact that retention bonuses paid to former Smith Barney brokers expired earlier this year.