In what is a rare occurrence, this week an arbitration panel ordered Lincoln Financial Advisors to shell out $2 million in compensatory damages to Jeffrey Concepcion, a former Lincoln broker and founder of Stratos Wealth Partners in Solon, Ohio. Concepcion, who’s now with LPL Financial, was terminated by Lincoln in August 2008.
But he claims the firm would not offer him severance unless he signed a non-compete agreement, and that Lincoln misrepresented the circumstances of the termination, giving his clients the idea that he had left the industry altogether and was fired “with cause.” The arbitration also asserted claims for unfair competition, tortious interference with business relationships and prospective business relationships, defamation, and breach of contract.
At the time, he was working on a potential deal with a number of Wachovia offices regarding sales of variable life insurance. But Lincoln raised objections to the deal and fired him because he had asked for a short time table for confirmation of the terms of the deal, FINRA filings say. He originally sought damages in the amount of $4.77 million.
Concepcion’s lawyer did not return a call by press time, and the arbitration documents did not explain why the $2 million award was given. Concepcion had been with Lincoln Financial for over 20 years, according to FINRA filings.
But he certainly did not leave the industry; in fact, he has built up Stratos quite nicely over the last couple years. His Form ADV on file with the SEC shows he has $551 million in regulatory assets under management. His firm’s website says Stratos has 88 affiliated LPL advisors throughout the U.S.
“Jeff, like many others, had become increasingly dissatisfied with existing brokerage models that made it more and more difficult for advisors to place their clients’ interests first,” the site says.
This type and size of award against a brokerage firm is rare in the industry. In 2007, an ex-Merrill broker won a $1.6 million award for wrongful termination and defamation.