A broker won nearly $10 million from his former employer, Waddell & Reed, last week—six years after first suing the broker/dealer for smearing his reputation and eight years after being fired in the wake of his testifying against the firm at an SEC hearing.
The settlement comes at the end of a road that was as twisting as it was long for Stephen Sawtelle in his claims against Waddell & Reed, which is based in Overland Park, Kan. In 2001, two years after filing his claim and four years after being fired, an NASD arbitration panel ruled against Waddell & Reed, ordering it to pay Sawtelle $28 million (of which $25 million were for punitive damages) for having “orchestrated a campaign of deception.”
Waddell & Reed had, according to the NASD, spread lies about Sawtelle in an attempt to keep his clients after he was fired in 1997. The firing followed his testimony against the firm at an SEC hearing where he claimed that Waddell & Reed had failed to supervise an employee who later embezzled client funds.
The firm disputed the punitive amount, and, in February 2003, a New York court decided the amount was excessive and should be re-evaluated by the NASD panel. Seven months later, the panel decided again that Sawtelle was to be awarded $25 million. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court then decided to send the case to a new arbitration panel, saying the arbitration panel’s second award was in breach of the court’s original decision.
Thursday was the third time Sawtelle and Waddell & Reed attempted to reach a settlement by mediation. Jeffrey Liddle, Sawtelle’s attorney, was unavailable for comment, but told the Kansas City Star that the meeting entailed a full day of mediation talks and documentation work.
“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” Liddle told the Star “It’s certainly been a long road.” The payment on Thursday was $7.9 million, which with other payments previously made, added up to almost $10 million.
“This issue has been out there for several years, and putting it behind us is a positive development,” Hank Herrmann, CEO of Waddell & Reed Financial, said in a statement.