Former ML Chief Free to Take Job

Robert J. McCann, the former Merrill Lynch & Co. brokerage chief is free to take the reins at a major Merrill rival—even if it be the U.S. wealth management unit of UBS that has been rumored for months—after he settled a lawsuit today with Bank of America.

Robert J. McCann, the former Merrill Lynch & Co. brokerage chief is free to take the reins at a major Merrill rival—even if it be the U.S. wealth management unit of UBS that has been rumored for months—after he settled a lawsuit today with Bank of America.

“Everyone is happy this is behind him,” McCann’s attorney, Steven Eckhaus, of the law firm Katten Muchin Rosemann LLP in New York, told Registered Rep. “This was never about money; it was about his right to go back to work.”

Even though UBS is widely reported as McCann’s next assignment, Eckhaus was tight-lipped, declining to comment on these reports. “The settlement is good for both sides and he can go back to work at the end of the month,” he said.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, Eckhaus says.

In August, McCann sued Merrill’s parent Bank of America--which acquired Merrill in September 2008 as it came close to collapse—seeking to reverse a non-compete clause that prevented McCann from returning to work.

In court papers, McCann said Bank of America fired him without cause after rejecting his offer to resign. He said the dismissal was part of “vengeful conduct intended to both punish and humiliate” him for trying to quit the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank.
Even though his attorney says this case is not about money, it is clear McCann, who was highly regarded by brokers and popular at Merrill, was upset at events that lead up to his exit from Merrill—and hurt his compensation. He testified in court how Merrill’s ex-Chairman, John Thain, requested him to forego his 2008 bonus of as much as $5 million.

“John [Thain] said, ‘I have a wonderful opportunity for you,’” McCann said. “‘I’m giving you the opportunity to say that you don’t want a bonus.’”

One source at UBS Wealth Management in the U.S. recently admitted to this reporter that bringing an industry executive of McCann’s stature and high profile on board the unit would require an attractive compensation package. But the source had no comment on whether he is ready to join UBS.

“I can’t comment at all,” said Mc Cann’s attorney Eckhaus, referring to the UBS reports.
Merrill Lynch had no comment on the settlement.

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