Prudential Securities settled in August a contentious malicious prosecution claim brought by a former broker who the firm charged with stealing $20,000 after his 1994 termination. The $20,000 represented the value the firm placed on a company file the broker allegedly removed without approval.
The rep, Troy Hawkins, was fired from Prudentials Dallas North Central Expressway branch Sept. 6, 1994. He was hired by EVER EN in Dallas less than two weeks later, and still works there. Hawkins CRD record indicates he was let go for a violation of firm policy and misrepresentation. The record shows two customer complaints that allege, in part, misrepresentation--one was arbitrated and the customer was awarded $10,000 in January 1996, and another was settled for $13,000 a month after Hawkins left Prudential in 1994.
Under terms of the settlement, Hawkins can no longer comment on the case. The amount of the setfiement was not disclosed. However, court and police documents confirm the criminal charges. Those charges were never pursued by the Dallas DA. Hawkins provided information to RR prior to the settlement.
Prudential filed a report with the Dallas Police Department the day after the termination. According to allegations contained in the report, the branch had been entered, without forced entry, and one company file removed. About a month after leaving Prudential, according to Hawkins, the Dallas Police Department called him about the charge.
Meanwhile, Hawkins filed a wrongful termination suit Oct.18, 1994, against Prudential in the District Court of Dallas County. He also named as defendants his branch manager, John Rhoades, and Prudential regional executives Kevin OFriel, Kent Varner and Joseph Nittolo. Prudential had put false information on his U-5, Hawkins charged, including that he had made unauthorized entry into his office using a false name to seize files of customer complaints. The firm told customers Hawkins was a thief, a criminal and should be in jail, his complaint says.
Several months after he filed his claim, Hawkins says Prudential filed criminal charges with the Dallas district attorneys office. It wasnt until he talked to the district attorney, says Hawkins, that he found out the charges went beyond simply taking a document, but also involved the alleged theft of $20,000. The complaint never got beyond the grand jury.
Hawkins filed a second suit charging Prudential, Rhoades and another regional executive, Donald Littlefield, with malicious prosecution. Both suits eventually were ordered into a single arbitration.
In his arbitration complaint, Hawkins asked for $500,000 for slander and libel, $2 million for loss of customers and income, and $5 million for damages arising from the criminal prosecution. Prudential asked that Hawkins conduct be referred to the NASD Business Conduct Committee.
In an October 1996 decision, the NASD arbitration panel noted that none of the respondents had filed an arbitrafion submission agreement. It dismissed all claims without prejudice, and ordered the respondents to pay forum fees. Hawkins claims Prudential never specified what the alleged $20,000 theft was. The firm at one point claimed in the arbitration hearing that Hawkins took some customer mutual fund statements, he claims. Hawkins adds that he couldnt have taken anything since he was immediately escorted out of the office when fired. He even had to leave his wallet behind.
After the arbitration decision, Hawkins filed a third suit, which is now settled.
Hawkins claims his former managers have been fired over the incident. Varner is the only Prudential defendant still employed by the firm, CRD records show. Rhoades joined MFS Fund Distributors in Boston in 1996. OFriel joined Stanford Group Co. in Davie, Fla., in 1997. None of them were terminated for cause, according to CRD records. Littlefields and Nittolos whereabouts are unknown.
Prudential Securities did not respond to interview requests by press time.