Wells Loses TRO Bid to Handcuff GA Broker Who Joined Ameriprise
A Georgia state judge has denied Wells Fargo Advisors’ motion to restrain a broker who joined Ameriprise Financial from contacting his former clients.
While Glen Wilk took confidential data on at least one large client, he destroyed it and presents “no current threat…of irreparable harm,” a legal threshold for issuing a temporary restraining order or injunction, Gwinnett County Judge Warren Davis wrote in his order denying Wells’ motion.
Wells accused Wilk of trying to open accounts for many clients without their approval and of taking confidential client information, but the judge said the potential harm it cited focused on a specific person. No other customers had complained, the judge noted.
“The Court finds that the Defendant has subsequently taken the appropriate actions to remedy those actions by removing all such confidential information,” the judge wrote, referencing the single client with a $750,000 account. “[G]iven these unique findings there is insufficient basis for the Court to enter a restraining order.”
Wells Fargo brought its claim in June against the bank branch-based broker in Lawrenceville, who had been with the bank for almost half of his 31-year career. Wilk left in May for Ameriprise, but Wells said he possessed more than the five pieces of contact information on clients permissible under the Protocol for Broker Recruiting.
Wilk succeeded in moving $51 million in 900 accounts to Ameriprise within a month of his move, according to Wells’s complaint. It did not specify the total size of his practice.
Much of the case revolved around testimony from Joe Bowen, a client of Wilk’s for six years, according to court filings. He asserted that Wilk had pre-populated account opening forms at Ameriprise with personal information, including beneficiaries and his social security number, without his knowledge. Bowen did not move his account to Ameriprise.
Wilk violated Protocol rules, which are not legally binding, but the judge concluded that the broker was genuinely remorseful about his actions as corroborated by his decision to destroy the client’s files, according to the order and a transcript of the August 20 hearing.
The judge wrote that his decision was a mixed bag for both parties, “likely to make you both very unhappy.” Wells Fargo is pressing its case for damages and a permanent injunction against Wilk in a Finra arbitration.
A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, which alleged that Wilk perpetuated a “fraudulent scheme” by removing hard files, declined to comment on the court decision or the progress of the arbitration.
Wilk denied taking any files, noting that all client data were stored electronically as Wells preferred for the Envision financial planning program that the broker administered. Wilk, who is based in Duluth, Georgia, did not immediately return a call for comment.
“We felt this case was without merit from the start and were pleased to see the judge agreed,” an Ameriprise spokesperson said in a prepared statement.
Judges in at least two other recent cases have dismissed assertions from Wells Fargo Advisors and another bank-owned broker-dealer that a broker’s possession of client data could cause them “irreparable harm.”
A federal judge in Michigaanlast month reversed a TRO she had issued against a J.P. Morgan Securities’ broker who had also joined Ameriprise Financial, describing its claim of harm as “almost laughable.”
A Florida U.S. Circuit judge a week later denied Wells’ request to restrain two brokers who moved to RBC Wealth Management-U.S. in Sarasota, calling a TRO an “extreme remedy.”
(Updated with comment from Ameriprise spokesperson.)