Merrill Lynch Accused of Discrimination and Deferred Compensation Payment

Vernon Litigation Group recently filed a claim against Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. on the behalf of a well-respected financial advisor. Merrill Lynch is accused of discrimination, deferred compensation payment, and other claims.

( — September 10, 2014) Naples, Florida — This week, Vernon Litigation Group filed an arbitration claim with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. (“Merrill Lynch”) on behalf of a high profile and high producing financial advisor in Arkansas, alleging significant damages arising out of Merrill Lynch’s discrimination, tortious interference, deferred compensation payment, and other claims.

The Statement of Claim alleges that after the Arkansas financial advisor was diagnosed with a rare health condition (which literally put the advisor’s life at risk), Merrill Lynch wrongfully pushed the advisor out of Merrill Lynch.  According to the Claim, Merrill Lynch also suddenly prohibited her from continuing to pursue her previously approved outside business activities of writing and publishing books and articles; failed to provide her with “retirement” status (which would have automatically entitled the advisor her warranted compensation for the significant book of business that she handled at Merrill Lynch); and failed to pay her full compensation due under the Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor Capital Accumulation Award Plan (FCAAP). After realizing there was no other recourse the advisor contacted the Vernon Litigation Group’s financial advisor attorneys for help.


According to the Claim, Merrill Lynch initially swayed the advisor to leave Morgan Stanley—along with her significant assets under management—after 24 years at that firm, with misrepresentations about the financial health of the firm, as well as promises about a better overall environment to service her high-end clientele (even though internally Merrill Lynch was at risk of going bankrupt at the time unless it was acquired by Bank of America).  The claim alleges that although there were serious firm management and solvency issues at Merrill Lynch (which created difficulty for the advisor and her clients), for the following 4 years the advisor established herself as a top producer for Merrill Lynch, generated significant revenue for the firm and, as was the case while at Morgan Stanley, became one of the top producers for Merrill Lynch in the entire state of Arkansas.

During her employment with Merrill Lynch, the Arkansas advisor also successfully pursued her passion for writing books and articles on topics such as time management.  According to the Claim, during her employment, all book and article publications were promptly approved by Merrill Lynch compliance.  Nevertheless, the Claim states that when the advisor was diagnosed with vasculitis (a condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks inflamed blood vessels) and was placed on disability, she was forced to relinquish her significant book of clients that she spent three decades developing and was told that her position would no longer be held.  The Claim also alleges that as soon as the advisor was placed on disability, Merrill Lynch suddenly restricted the advisor’s ability to publish her writings (which were consecutively approved for years up until her disability).


The Claim alleges that these acts constitute not only tortious interference with business relations but also a series of discriminatory actions by Merrill Lynch against the advisor suffering from an illness covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“It is concerning to see the pattern of actions taken by Merrill Lynch against our client in this case,” said attorney Chris Vernon. “While our client was literally fighting the battle of her life, Merrill Lynch’s actions were simply unacceptable in our judgment.”

As mentioned earlier, the Claim also alleges that Merrill Lynch failed to pay the Arkansas advisor her deferred compensation. Specifically, the claim states that although under most deferred compensation plans the advisor would have to wait several years to get vesting rights, in this case, the advisor was ousted from her position in such a way that it triggered immediate payment of her deferred compensation.  “In our opinion, under the facts of the case, she should have immediately received her deferred compensation,” said attorney Victor Bayata.  “Regretfully, as with other former Merrill Lynch advisors with similar deferred compensation issues, our client had to resort to arbitration in order to protect her rights,” Bayata added.

About Vernon Litigation Group

Vernon Litigation Group is a law firm based in Naples, Florida that represents investors and advisors in disputes against brokerage firms throughout Florida and the United States in arbitrations, mediations, and litigation. For further information, you can contact us at:

Vernon Litigation Group

999 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 200, The Fifth Third Center
Naples, Florida United States 34108

(239) 319-4434