Merrill Lynch Hit With $8.5 Million Wrongful Termination Case

March 1, 2013

In a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") Arbitration Statement of Claim filed in November 2011, and thereafter amended, Claimant Keating asserted wrongful termination, defamation, emotional distress, interference with business relations, and violation of Massachusetts Payment of Wages Law. Ultimately, Claimant sought $6 million in compensatory damages; $2.5 million in punitive damages, attorneys' fees, costs, and a recommendation of expungement. In the Matter of the FINRA Arbitration Between John Patrick, Keating, Claimant, vs. Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith, Inc., Respondent (FINRA Arbitration 11-04254, February 26, 2013).

Respondent Merrill Lynch generally denied the allegations, asserted various affirmative defenses, and filed a Counterclaim for unjust enrichment and breach of promissory notes/refinance agreements. In its Counterclaim, in addition to attorneys' fees and costs, Merrill Lynch sought $135,657.07 in compensatory damages with 2.95% interest from July 28, 2011, until paid in full.

In response to Respondent's January 16, 2013,Motion In Limine and Claimant's opposition, the FINRA Hearing Panel precluded Claimant from "presenting medical related evidence In support of his emotional distress claim but could offer testimony and seek "garden variety" emotional distress damages."

The FINRA Arbitration Panel found:

  • Respondent Merrill Lynch liable and ordered the firm to pay to Claimant Keating $14,645.34 in compensatory damages  and $5,000 in attorneys' fees.
  • Claimant Keating liable and ordered him to pay to Respondent Merrill Lynch $135,657.07 in compensatory damages with $6,115.68 accrued 2.95% interest from July 28, 2011 until February 4, 2013; and $23,000 in attorneys' fees.
  • NOTE: The Panel offset the awards such that Claimant Keating owes Respondent Merrill Lynch $121,011.73 in compensatory damages and $18,000 in attorneys' fee