Thursday, February 11, 2016

Even General Counsels Get Defamed

What happens when the media re-states bluntly what you tried to say cleverly? A jury might find you liable for defamation, even if your statement was made in a legal document.

This observation is one of many take-aways from the litigation victory achieved by Minnesota attorney Chet Taylor. A jury awarded Chet $600,000 for a defamatory statement his former broker-dealer made in a corrective action plan attached to a FINRA consent order. The defendant added another $250,000 after the initial verdict to end the case.

Would a broker-dealer really throw former employees, including its General Counsel, under the proverbial bus? Perhaps. In this instance, broker-dealer Feltl and Company implied in the corrective action plan with FINRA that the “replacement” of certain employees, including its General Counsel, would “enhance a culture of compliance at the firm.” The Wall Street Journal subsequently published an article about Feltl utilizing a direct summary of the rather ham-handed plan: “The firm also said it replaced its general beef up compliance.” The jury obviously did not care that Chet was not identified by name in the corrective action plan or Journal article. But they certainly cared that Chet had voluntarily departed for private practice about 2 years before the execution of the Consent Order and plan. Food for thought.

David Cosgrove has obtained monetary awards and expungements for various members of the financial industry from broker-dealers such as U.S. Bancorp Investments, Raymond James Financial Advisers, and Questar. He has also achieved negotiated confidential resolutions on behalf of other advisers and employees.