Liberty Financial Cos. is standing by three of its mutual fund executives who are being sued by Putnam Investments.

Putnam Investments filed suit last Thursday in Massachusetts Superior Court of Middlesex County, alleging that the three employees violated nonsolicitation and nondisparagement agreements they signed when they resigned from Putnam.

Named in the suit are Louis Tasiopoulos and James S. Tambone, both senior managing directors, distribution, at Boston-based Liberty Financial.

The third accused is Stephen Gibson, president and chief executive officer of Colonial Group Inc., a mutual fund subsidiary of Liberty, which is also active in the insurance business.

The suit does not set an amount of damages. But Putnam, also based in Boston, believes the executives have forfeited their right to receive money from incentive compensation plans at Putnam, according to court documents.

Mr. Tasiopoulos and Mr. Tambone left a month ago from Putnam, where they were managing directors of financial institutions and financial advisers, respectively. Mr. Gibson, who was managing director, product development, departed last summer.

Liberty's chairman and chief executive officer, Kenneth Liebler, said he would "vigorously" defend the executives along with Liberty and Colonial, which are also cited in the complaint.

"It is surprising that a company the size and stature of Putnam feels it must resort to legal action in order to keep its employees from leaving," Mr. Liebler said in a prepared statement.

Liberty declined to make its employees available for comment.

According to the suit, Mr. Gibson violated his nonsolicitation agreement with Putnam by recruiting Mr. Tasiopoulos and Mr. Tambone to Liberty.

Putnam also accused Mr. Gibson of making disparaging remarks about the company. The suit claims that in two publications, Mr. Gibson referred to Putnam as "going nuts."

Putnam indicated in court documents that it had fired Mr. Gibson because it was "dissatisfied with (his) performance."

Mr. Tasiopoulos also allegedly confirmed that Mr. Tambone needed "to hire more Putnam employees in order to be successful at Liberty," according to the suit. Putnam said it was stunned when it lost these executives. Their departure was described as a major blow to Putnam, which has leading market shares in the bank and financial adviser channels.

Putnam CEO Lawrence J. Lasser wrote in a memorandum: "The lawsuit is based on objective information we have, confirmed by exit interviews with Jim Tambone and Lou Tasiopoulos, that the nonsolicitation agreements were violated by the three individuals."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.