Former Questar Employee Wins Over $3 Million in FINRA Defamation Arbitration

January 19, 2012

In a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") ArbitrationStatement of Claim filed in September 2008, Claimant Gorier asserted tortious interference with contractual relationships; breach of contract and/or duty of good faith and fair dealing; negligence andnegligence per se; and defamation and/or defamation per se.

That's a lot of causes of action and likely underscores a lot of anger and bad feelings between the former employee Claimant and his former employer Respondent.  Accordingly, Claimant asserted that Respondent Questar had defamed him to his customers and made false reports to regulators regarding Claimant's employment with Respondent. At the close of the FINRA Arbitration hearing, Claimant sought $3,862,517.00 in compensatory damages plus punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and costs. It also seems that at some point in these proceedings, Claimant sought an expungement of defamatory information. In the Matter of the FINRA Arbitration Between Thomas J. Gorier, Claimant / Counter-Respondent, vs. Questar Capital Corporation, Respondent / Counter-Claimant (FINRA Arbitration  08-03514, January 13, 2012).

Respondent Questar generally denied the allegations, asserted various affirmative defenses, and filed a Counterclaim. From Respondent's perspective, Claimant had breached his Registered Representative Agreement, for which the former employer sought $10,054,668.53 in compensatory damages, attorneys' fees, and costs.

I'll see your $3.8 Million and raise you about $6.2 Million.

SIDE BAR: Prior to issuing the Decision in this matter, in June 2011, the FINRA Arbitration Panel ordered the Claimant to reimburse Respondent, upon presentation of proper receipts, the sum of $1,050.00 for lodging expenses and any airline change fees for Respondent incurred as a result of the Claimant's requested postponement of the June 14-17, 2011, hearing dates.

Decision

The FINRA Arbitration Panel found Respondent Questar liable and ordered it to pay to Claimant Gorier

  • $3,251,907.00 in compensatory damages plus 12& interest until paid; and
  • $49,241.00 in costs;

Claimant's request for expungement was denied and dismissed with prejudice.

Bill Singer's Comment

I hear it virtually every day when some stockbroker calls me up seeking advice about his or her predicament. In some cases, the former employee is seeking to right a whole host of wrongs against one of the big boys: Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, or Wells Fargo.  Other times, it's a battle against an indie or regional firms. On some occasions, it's just mano a mano - one individual aching to get into a ring against a former manager.  Regardless, the questions to me tend to be the same: 

  1. Can they do this to me?
  2. Can I sue?
  3. Isn't the whole FINRA arbitration process rigged against employees in favor of the member firms?

My response to the above is usually fairly straightforward and consistent.

  1. They can and they have.
  2. If you can afford my legal fees, Ill file the Statement of Claim.
  3. I think it's often lopsided but not always.

Sadly, the Decision in this case is all too typical of an unacceptable FINRA style: provide the barest of facts, offer the least amount of explanation, just state the ruling and let 'em ponder what really happened and why the Panel ruled as it did.

I wish that I could offer you more facts and rationale but I can't.  What I can infer and what I do know is that Claimant Gorier was one of those intrepid souls who isn't easily intimidated.  He's the boxer in the middle of the ring who gets punched in the mouth, tastes his own blood, spits it out, and never quite gets the message that he's fighting above his weight class.  Lowly Wall Street employees are supposed to be far too intimidated to sue their former employers. There's this industry lore about not washing your dirty laundry in public and how FINRA is basically a pro-employer forum.

Well, guess what folks, every so often the underdog wins.  Lesson to be learned.