A St. Louis complex manager who left Morgan Stanley Smith Barney for Wells Fargo Advisors last week is facing a lawsuit from his former employer that could hinder his ability to recruit advisers in his new position.

The lawsuit, industry recruiters said, serves as a warning to the manager that it isn't giving up without a fight. "Managers move to competitors all the time without complying with their non-competes, and the firms typically don't come after them," said Bill Willis, a recruiter with Willis Consulting. "Morgan Stanley is just trying to put up a show of arms to make a point."

Filed in the U.S. District Court in New York on Wednesday, the lawsuit accuses former complex manager Kevin Whitehead of breaking his contract with Morgan Stanley by not providing 60 days' notice of his resignation before beginning to work at the Wells Fargo & Co. unit.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney also claims that Whitehead's contract prohibits him from hiring or recruiting Morgan Stanley Smith Barney employees for six months and from soliciting the firm's clients for 90 days after his departure.

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