JPMorgan’s attorney tried to present his case: One of the firm’s former consultants had violated his non-advertising agreements and transferred millions of dollars in client assets to his new employer, Ameriprise. If something is not done, irreparable damage will be done.
But the judge didn’t buy it and called one of the bank’s legal arguments “almost ridiculous”.
The case in which the client’s advisor’s handwritten notes and affidavits were included is part of a series of litigation involving brokers versus brokers over client contacts.
Last week, Judge Janet Neff in federal court resolved an injunction against advisor Ryan Riley, who had become the subject of a lawsuit after he left JPMorgan for Ameriprise in July.
“I don’t see how you could conclude that a single financial advisor at a small branch bank in Okemos, Michigan, a suburb of Lansing, Michigan, could cause irreparable damage to a financial giant like JP Morgan.” The judge said after a transcript of a court hearing on August 19.
For Riley, it was a decisive legal victory over an injunction that his attorneys described as “incredibly damaging” to his reputation.
JPMorgan had accused Riley of “aggressively” violating non-advertising agreements in a lawsuit in Michigan federal court. Around $ 25 million of the $ 146 million in client assets that Riley oversees at JPMorgan has been transferred to his new employer, Ameriprise, since July, according to the bank’s lawsuit.
Judge Neff the bank’s application for a TRO was granted two days after the lawsuit was brought.
Riley’s attorney argued that they had no opportunity to defend themselves against JPMorgan’s “frivolous” lawsuit and filed a motion to reconsider the order.
The bank provided “no credible, admissible evidence of this [Riley] actually involved in wrongdoing, ”argued Riley’s lawyer.
The TRO has “incredibly damaged” Riley’s reputation and is “unjustified,” lawyers said in later files, noting that the judge’s order was part of the public record. Newspaper articles,including one of Financial planning, “Be among the first to get results when typing Mr. Riley’s name into Google – and even beat Mr. Riley’s own LinkedIn page.”
Riley denied inquiring about customers or taking sensitive information with him after leaving JPMorgan.
“I only contacted customers to announce my change of company and new
Contact information and did not solicit any customers, ”the consultant wrote in a court case.
In addition, his lawyers produced affidavits from clients stating that they were not asked to move their assets. The names of the customers have been edited.
Court records from both sides included Riley’s handwritten notes he made after he left JPMorgan, as well as an SMS exchange with an unnamed customer who asked Riley to send him his new Ameriprise contact information. Riley replied that he would send an email telling the customer to “follow up anytime”.
At the trial, Judge Neff pressed JPMorgan’s attorney to see if customers had actually told the bank that they had been contacted. The judge did not receive a satisfactory answer and, according to a transcript, told the attorney, “You dance around my question.”
She later called JPMorgan’s argument that it would suffer irreparable damage “almost ridiculous”.
At another point in the hearing, JPMorgan’s attorney said it was “extremely difficult for JPMorgan to prove their financial damage.” Therefore, the bank would suffer irreparable damage, he said. The judge threw cold water on the argument.
“It’s really ripe. That’s very good. I have to give it to you there. That’s a good argument. Go straight ahead. Very inventive. Very creative, ”she said, according to a transcript.
Judge Neff found that JPMorgan’s other legal arguments were missing. She said Riley “acquitted himself fairly well in his dismissal, denying any wrongdoing,” and decided against the bank’s request for a restraining order. She also noted the customers’ participation in the result.
“I think the public interest would also be negatively affected if third parties, the customers of these financial institutions, did not have the right to decide who represents them,” she said.
Riley and JPMorgan’s attorneys declined to comment on the case.
According to FINRA BrokerCheck records, Riley served in JPMorgan’s Chase Wealth Management business for approximately a decade. The department is not a member of Broker Protocol, an industry agreement that allows advisors to take basic customer information with them when they change companies. Ameriprise, an aggressive recruiter, is on the record.
Other consultants leaving non-log firms have also faced legal challenges related to customer contacts.Edward Jones sued one of his former brokersfor allegedly soliciting customers to join him at his new employer, Ameriprise. In March, JPMorgan won an injunction against an advisor who joined Merrill Lynch and allegedly solicited clients.
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