Wachovia Securities has been ordered to pay $1.1 million in attorneys' fees and costs after an arbitration panel dismissed its latest claim of raiding against the St. Louis brokerage Stifel Nicolaus & Co.
The companies' dispute was over the move of four financial advisers to Stifel Nicolaus in Florence, S.C., from Wachovia Securities in June 2008. The advisers had been longtime brokers at A.G. Edwards before Wachovia bought it in early 2008. The arbitrators' ruling came last week.
But when they joined Stifel on June 26, 2008, Wachovia immediately filed a claim. Wachovia alleged breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of fiduciary duty against Stifel and the brokers. When the brokers moved, Stifel had not yet signed the Protocol for Broker Recruiting.
Under the protocol, brokers leaving a firm are permitted to retain their clients' basic contact information, but other information, such as account numbers and positions, must be left behind. A.G. Edwards and Wachovia had signed the protocol, and Stifel subsequently did so, in August 2008. (Wells Fargo & Co. bought Wachovia Corp. in December of that year.)
Wachovia sought to prevent Stifel from any further contact with the brokers' clients, soliciting any other Wachovia advisers to leave or transmitting any information related to Wachovia's clients, including contact details. However, the arbitration panel rejected all claims and ordered Wachovia to pay $15,080 in damages to the brokers, $73,350 in hearing fees and $1.1 million in attorneys' fees and costs.
"Wells Fargo Advisors is very disappointed by this decision," a representative said. "We believe the case was wrongly decided, and we intend to move to vacate the award."