Question about repaying money

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Nov 24, 2010 8:01 pm

I moved to BAI a few years ago and after the ML merger I left to go Indy. I couldn't be happier but of course mother Merrill wants the remaining money back. Anyone with experience please tell me what you did or didn't do. I am not looking to get out of paying all of it but should I go to Arbitration or have they made deals with people ?
Thanks.

Nov 25, 2010 4:09 pm

Knowing Merrill, those bloddsuckers will probably be relentless.   I will be moving firms shortly and I was advised to seek an attorney to draft a letter that lists all the complaints regarding how your business was poorly effected because BAC bought ML.   Example, the dismantling of PB and I, no refferalls, shuffling offices, poor training, the complete sellout of Fund strat Managed for the benefit of the firm convenienc and not the client.   The letter should cost you about 300-400 dollars by the attorney and they may just settle.  How much do you owe?  Do you think management treated you differently because you were BAC and not Legacy ML?

Nov 25, 2010 5:22 pm

If you go to Finra Awards Online, you'll see that virtually every single case about an unpaid note, goes to the firm's favor. The only one I'm really aware of, going to the rep, was the one that Bill Singer just posted about the Rep that was working at a branch where the office was closed down, and he was expected to work 25 miles away.

Arbitrators basically believe that if you've left, and have an unpaid balance due to contract, there basically are no excuses that work. Change in  culture, lack of support, yada yada not going to cut it.

Dec 1, 2010 1:06 am

There is no way that you will get away NOT repaying the retention bonus paid. You most likely signed a detailed and complex contract in relation to the money you received. As BigFirepower noted above, the firms usually to almost always win these cases. You signed the agreement and have to live by the contract. Arbitration is the recourse set in the contracts for disputes over the contracts, rather than a court of law.

 I think your wasting time and energy thinking you can leave and keep the funds. Usually if you have a brokerage account with BAC or ML they can seize the assets immediately if you leave. Be sure you know what your doing before you leave thinking your free to keep the retention funds you were paid. If this was the case, many would take the money and move on to other firms. It just doesn't work that way. These brokerage have lots of lawyers on the payroll and you can't beat them. Pay the money back then leave. Lets hope you haven't already spent what you got. Then your committed to stay and your up sh-t creek.

Dec 27, 2010 9:26 pm

Correct about them siezing assets in accounts with your name on them.  Just to be safe before we moved, we jounaled all non-IRA assets into our spouses names.  I believe that they can't attach an ira due to ERISA and your spouse didn't sign the form.  We followed protocol, repaid retention, and played by the rules and luckily were not sued or had assets siezed.

I say take precautions, play it straight, and strike first.

Dec 30, 2010 5:33 pm

I believe that it may be possible to get some consideration if the company did something that made it impossible for you to work there or basically fired you without firing you.  If the firm can get a settlement against you, you need to pay it or you lose your license - as you would have an unsatisfied judgment against a member firm.  And if they paid you $500,000 to go there and you stayed four out of the five year contract - that's pretty clear.  If you were just sick of getting 37% and wanted 85% that's weak.   If you had a boss that wanted all your accounts and made it such a hell for you you had to quit - that's another thing as you were basically fired already.   You need to keep a diary of every single thing that they did to make you lose business, not be able to do business, or just plain harrass you.

Call this guy..http://allen-fuller.com/Steven_N_Fuller.php

Dec 30, 2010 10:21 pm

So if they take you to arbitration and win can you pay them back in installments? Do you have to disclose it if they file arbitration? Just wondering.

Dec 30, 2010 11:10 pm

I believe the previous posters have good points, however, in my opinion there is a more than reasonable chance that you will be able to settle for some cents on the dollar.  I know of people who have done so and I would be happy to give you additional details if you would like to PM me.

I went through arbitration with BAI (unrelated to ML) for repayment of the promissory note.  I counterclaimed for fraud and won my case.  Susequently, my two partners, who were both with BAI also, settled their respective cases for pennies on the dollar.  The point being they will settle.  However, as the others have mentioned, you need a GOOD lawyer and you need to have some reasonable case.  The arbitration decisions do tend to fall in favor of the firms in these types of cases, but, in most of the cases, the FA does not have good witnesses or other written evidence to support their claim.

The process of arbitration takes about a year from the time they file a complaint.  It will get very costly with lawyers fees, distraction from your daily business, worry, stress, etc.  Settlement usually comes right before arbitration is to start.

Again, I will be glad to speak with you if you would like to PM me.

Dec 30, 2010 11:12 pm

I believe the previous posters have good points, however, in my opinion there is a more than reasonable chance that you will be able to settle for some cents on the dollar.  I know of people who have done so and I would be happy to give you additional details if you would like to PM me.

I went through arbitration with BAI (unrelated to ML) for repayment of the promissory note.  I counterclaimed for fraud and won my case.  Susequently, my two partners, who were both with BAI also, settled their respective cases for pennies on the dollar.  The point being they will settle.  However, as the others have mentioned, you need a GOOD lawyer and you need to have some reasonable case.  The arbitration decisions do tend to fall in favor of the firms in these types of cases, but, in most of the cases, the FA does not have good witnesses or other written evidence to support their claim.

The process of arbitration takes about a year from the time they file a complaint.  It will get very costly with lawyers fees, distraction from your daily business, worry, stress, etc.  Settlement usually comes right before arbitration is to start.

Again, I will be glad to speak with you if you would like to PM me.

Dec 31, 2010 10:44 am

Ok, there are some great posts going here, a few cases where someone beat the system, or had grounds to dismiss, etc. But, if you lose, the contracts are written such that you not just lose, but pick up the atty fees for the other side, which is very unusual in arbitration as they subscribe to what is called "The American Rule". When you lose, you pay back the balance, the atty fees, accrued interest from default, and pay interest until paid in full. I have looked over literally dozens of finra cases like this, and beating the system is about 1 in 50....not good odds. In just about every single case, the broker files a counter claim that asserts various defenses, that typically include some sort of claim of harassment etc. 

If you are being harassed, make sure you document the living daylights out of it. Also, do your homework by going to Finra Awards Online, and also hire an attorney before the mess gets to be too big. I'm amazed at how little preventive planning folks do, considering just how much is at stake! 

Jan 6, 2011 3:57 pm

Bill Singer's web site blogs at www.brokeandbroker.com will provide some insight as to what you are facing.  Also, review the FINRA awards.  You will find as a generalization that arbitration to fight avoiding paying back upfront money is often a losing battle.  If you do take this to arbitration and have a settlement against you, it will often include the other side's attorney fees.  My understanding is that you may not be able to set up a payment plan.  You either pay the amount of the settlement or lose your license.  Bankruptcy for those without assets becomes a consideration, but one not to be taken lightly. Is that something you want future and current clients to see when they access your U-4? 

Can you settle?  If you have some ammunition, cry poor, and they fear that bankruptcy is a possibility, they may take pennies on the dollar.  Personally, I'd rather go that route than an arbitration with attorney's fees when history is not on your side. 

Jan 9, 2011 4:54 pm

I got a $530k bonus to go to Merrill in 2009. Left after 4 months, returned $250k and kept the rest.

Mar 21, 2011 11:49 am

I won

let's call me mr. 2% (1 in 50)

but it wasn't the firm you mentioned

get a superb attorney and pay him or her well

Mar 31, 2011 3:25 am

I have learned a lot on this thread. I will be cautious next time.