PNC Employee Wins $1.8 Million Wrongful Termination Award

May 2, 2017

Today's Blog features a $1.8 million FINRA Arbitration Award to a former PNC employee, who alleged that she had been defamed and wrongfully terminated. The FINRA arbitrators found that the PNC employee's termination was "pre-textual, arbitrary, and unreasonable." If you read the decision slowly, you can almost hear the ka-ching, ka-ching, and ka-ching of the old litigation cash register as each of those conclusions were entered into the document.

Case In Point

In a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") Arbitration Statement of Claim filed in December 2015, Claimant Mennemeyer asserted against her former employer PNC defamation, wrongful termination, unfair competition, and tortious interference with business expectancy. Claimant sought compensatory and punitive damages, and the expungement of allegedly false information filed on her Form U5 in connection with what she characterized as her improper termination. In the Matter of the FINRA Arbitration Between Adrienne M. Mennemeyer, Claimant, vs. PNC Investments, Respondent (FINRA Arbitration 15-03275, April 18, 2017).

Respondent PNC generally denied the allegations and asserted various affirmative defenses.

SIDE BAR: I wish that we knew more about the underlying dispute. As the case is presented in the Decision, we are told about the Claimant's causes of actions, the Respondent's denials, and, wham, the composition of the Award. Missing from that preamble is a substantive discussion of any substantive facts. About all we know is that Claimant alleged this and that and Respondent said "no way," and Claimant said "way" and Respondent said "seriously?" and Claimant said "uh uh" and Respondent said "take your best shot" and Claimant said "like what do you think I'm doing?" and Respondent said "we have no idea but we ain't payin' jack" and Claimant said "oh, you're gonna pay jack" and Respondent said "surely, we ain't paying jack" and Claimant said "don't call me Shirley." And, like I said, I wish that we knew more.


The FINRA Arbitration Panel found Respondent PNC liable and ordered it to pay to Claimant Mennemeyer $300,000 in compensatory damages plus $1.5 million in punitive damages with both awards at 9% per annum interest until paid. The Panel also awarded Claimant $425 in reimbursed filing fees.


Having found that Respondent PNC had defamed Claimant Mennemeyer, the Panel recommended the expungement of the "Termination Explanation" in Section 3: "Full Termination" of Claimant's Form U5 and the replacement of the deleted language by:

"Adrienne M. Mennemeyer was wrongfully discharged based on an allegation that she had violated a PNC Investments policy. PNC Investments failed to produce any evidence whatsoever that Adrienne M. Mennemeyer had violated any PNC Investments policy. Adrienne M. Mennemeyr's discharge was pre-textual, arbitrary, and unreasonable. Adrienne M. Mennemeyer, at all times, acted in a manner public policy would encourage." . . .

The Panel recommended that  the U5's "Reason for Termination" remain the same but that the "YES" answer to to Question 7F(1) be changed to a "NO: and the Disclosure Reporting Page deleted.

Termination Disclosure

7F. Did the individual voluntarily resign from your firm, or was the individual discharged or permitted to resign from your firm, after allegations were made that accused the individual of:

1. violating investment-related statutes, regulations, rules or industry standards of conduct?

2. fraud or the wrongful taking of property?

3. failure to supervise in connection with investment-related statutes, regulations, rules or industry standards of conduct

Bill Singer's Comment

Wrongful termination cases often involve embarrassing fact patterns and scurrilous allegations. You may ask:"Bill, what the hell does that word "scurrilous" mean?" I would have hoped for a more substantive query about my provocative comments but let me address that first question: A scurrilous is a one of those cute, rat-like creatures with the bushy tail that we see running around in our parks and neighborhoods (not to be confused with stockbrokers and Wall Street regulators, both of whom lack the bushy tail). In fairness to Claimant Mennemeyer, she may well have not wanted a full recitation of the underlying facts. The whole point of her lawsuit was to remove defamatory comments from her industry record, which she largely seems to have accomplished by way of the Panel's expungement recommendation.  Accordingly, I can sort of live with my disappointment about this FINRA Arbitration Decision's lack of detailed background.

I compliment this panel of arbitrators for their finding that Claimant was "wrongfully discharged," and that Respondent PNC had "failed to produce any evidence whatsoever that Adrienne M. Mennemeyer had violated any PNC Investments policy." Similarly, how refreshing to read an unflinching determination that Claimant's "discharge was pre-textual, arbitrary, and unreasonable." Finally, Claimant Mennemeyer must feel immense vindication when she reads the arbitrators' conclusion that "at all times, [Mennemeyer] acted in a manner public policy would encourage."