01/05/2015 // Clouse Dunn LLP // (press release)
A panel of securities industry arbitrators unanimously ordered investment giant Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) to pay more than $7.6 million for violating federal laws that protect employees from workplace harassment and retaliation. The award by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is believed to be the largest ever rendered against Goldman Sachs in favor of a fired financial advisor. The Award was featured in several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and the National Law Journal. (Links below).
Los Angeles residents Chris Barra and Luis Sampedro sued Goldman Sachs for retaliation, withheld earned commissions and wrongfully forfeiting their deferred compensation. Among the evidence heard by the FINRA panel was that Barra, a 47-year-old West Point graduate and Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves, was chastised by Goldman Sachs supervisors for taking a leave for reserve duty.
Goldman restructured its compensation plan and began withholding a portion of Dunn’s clients’ commissions and converting them into restricted stock units paid out over time. The plan is a classic example of “golden handcuffs” designed to keep financial advisors from taking their business to other firms.
“This ruling establishes that my clients earned these commissions and their employer cannot forfeit their deferred compensation under California law,” says attorney Rogge Dunn, who represented the men. “It is also a warning to companies that you cannot treat members of the military differently than other employees or discourage them from taking military leave.”
“The ruling is a wake up call to financial advisors/brokers who are leaving money on the table when their former employer forfeits their hard-earned, deferred compensation.” Dunn says.
The panel’s ruling includes more than $5.2 million in compensatory damages, $2 million in punitive damages and $100,000 in damages for violating the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
Barra and Sampedro currently are among UBS’s top two percent of investment advisors nationwide. After starting work for UBS, Barra served 174 days of active duty in Iraq without any problems with UBS.
This is the third million-dollar award Dunn has won against Goldman Sachs for financial advisors. In 2006, an arbitration panel awarded $2.6 million to a broker who worked in the company’s San Francisco office. In 2008, Dunn won a $1 million award for a broker who worked in Goldman’s Los Angeles office.
Dunn regularly represents financial advisors and executives in the financial industry, in addition to handling other complex business and employment disputes.
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