Roll Call- Who's Walking from MER

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Oct 25, 2008 12:03 pm

The size of the deal isn't that important to me, but the language in the employment contract scares the hell outta me- an employment lawyer thinks I am crazy to sign it.  Thoughts?

Oct 25, 2008 12:16 pm

I’d visit another employment law attorney for a second opinion and if he/she has the same sentiment, I’d suggest you DON’T SIGN IT and seek another alternative for your own future.  You do have options, many actually and just be prudent and don’t “rush” into judgement would be my best advice.

Oct 25, 2008 12:26 pm

What specifically is the language that is at issue?

Oct 28, 2008 9:30 pm

Any official departures yet?

Oct 29, 2008 12:29 am

It SHOULD scare you.   The language of the letter says that - - - yes - - - you get a retention packaged that vests over several years - - - then it says that if you are fired - for any reason - including without cause (eg. they don't like the color of your wingtips) you forfeit any unvested portion of your package - - - and by the way - - - by signing the letter - - you also give up any FACAAP/wealthbuilder/growth award you would get if you were fired without cause due to a change in control.    Example - BofA gives you a 250,000 transition payable over three years.   You have $250,000 unvested FACAAP.   You sign the transition letter,  the next day they can RIF you and you lose the $250k transition AND you lose your $250k FACAAP.   Too bad, so sad.  

It is in BofA's interests to fire as many advisors as it can - because they save transition / FACAAP dollars with every firing.  My guess is that they will look at every producer who's PCs are less than $400 - $500k that TOOK the package and fire them - and give their accounts to all the advisors that refused to sign the transition letter.   I've had TWO employement lawyers look at this - They say that the non-compete is full of holes (as all non-competes are) but losing your transition amount or FACAAP is bullet proof.    The transition pkg gives BAC an unlimited put on your FACAAP - forever.   They will just fire every producer with a large FACAAP.   BofA's lawyers have to be rolling on the floor laughing as they see the rubes at ML lining up to sign their Transition Awards - like sheep being led to ...........   The biggest mystery to me is top ML management.   How are they going to manage 16,000 workforce once they find out they were brutally sold down the river by their senior managers.    
Oct 29, 2008 7:31 am


  The biggest mystery to me is top ML management.   How are they going to manage 16,000 workforce once they find out they were brutally sold down the river by their senior managers.    [/quote]   Might be easier if there are only 12,000 to manage.
Oct 29, 2008 3:57 pm

20% of the FA headcount will be gone by 12/31. That’s my guess… I’m probably being conservative.  At least 60% in my office are “engaged” elsewhere. My guess is half will settle down, put their panties back on and drink the BofA Koolaid. That leaves a small group who will stay, not because they’re happy but because they lack the guts to make the jump or think they deserve 250% cash and fail to realize the stupid days are ending from a recruting standpoint. They’ll go shopping in 09’ when they get 100% offers at best and realize the opportunity passed them by.  

Oct 29, 2008 9:03 pm

I will man up...I left MER.

Oct 29, 2008 9:09 pm

Where did you land entry?

Oct 29, 2008 9:27 pm

Based on what I’ve read above, no way would I sign that one-sided piece of crap.  Sounds like a typical bank-job to me.

Oct 29, 2008 9:41 pm

Glad to see I'm not alone worried about this language.  Even the biggest, long time FAs are busy vetting offers from recruiters.  Everyone in our office is pursuing deals, and some are forming alliances or "teams" trying to bump their recruiting packages. It's like " Survivor: ML"

The really amazing thing is how this has destroyed the last of the ML culture.  Even the long LOS guys are saying it's all about the money now.  I think Mccann and those guys think there is still a "ML Culture" of loyalty and pride.   They are out of touch.   This was a great opportunity for MER Mgt to regain the culture of performance that I think ML has always represented.  Unfortunately they blew it.    How hard would it have been to roll out a simple, competitive retention package? (like what Jamie Dimon gave Bear Stearns, for example). They could have always adjusted the new compensation plan to shave costs or focus on higher productivity FAs.  If the FAs didnt like the new compensation package, the would leave forfeiting their "retention." No harm, no foul.  But they would not have put the whole sales force in play.
Oct 29, 2008 10:26 pm

Personally, I think it’s sad. Merrill represented something on Wall Street. I think they were the most prestigious firm that served regular people (not many of our neighbors have Goldman, Lehman or Bear brokers). By losing Merrill, I think our industry has lost something. Hopefully, BAC sells them off again somewhere down the road. But it may be too late then…

Oct 29, 2008 10:36 pm

The next three Fridays sure will be interesting.  I'm also curious as to where most of the guys go, assuming they do leave.  Indy or another brokerage?

Oct 29, 2008 10:41 pm

You really think any big producers will have their deals in place by the next few weeks? I guess if they just walk to another BD (who???), but if they go indy, the process is probably a bit more involved. No?

Oct 29, 2008 10:42 pm

Don’t think the movement will be immediately apparent, bondo.  Those with sense will plan their move properly, which generally takes a while.  But most who are planning on leaving have likely begun to put the wheels in motion, to various degrees.

It will come, just not on the time frame you suggest.

Oct 29, 2008 11:07 pm

What’s your impression of guys who don’t sign the retention package by the 14th and are still at work come the 17th?

Oct 29, 2008 11:14 pm

Many of us are wondering what happens if we choose not to sign the document and stay at ML?

I’m in a very high profile, longstanding ML office and most people are talking openly about who they’re meeting with, etc. I know a lot of great 1st and 2nd quintile FAs doing less than $1 million who will be leaving. It’s sad to see the culture destroyed so quickly. When it comes down to it, guys like McCann and Sontag may put up a front that they care but at the end of the day, they can retire tomorrow very rich men.

Oct 29, 2008 11:27 pm

I have not seen the ML document so I cannot comment on it specifically.  However, no one  can be coerced into signing effectively a new employment agreement, and to sign anything simply because you think you have no alternative would certainly be unwise.  My experience with AGE/WB was they offered enhanced terms (upfront loan) if you signed the document; those who didn’t by default were paid retention on an annual cash basis.

If they haven’t clearly spelled out your alternatives should you wish not to sign, you should immediately hire an attorney who can advise you specifically.  This is no time to be penny wise and pound foolish. 

Good luck.

Oct 31, 2008 11:01 pm

Any movement this week?  Nothing around my place.

Nov 1, 2008 11:09 am

No movement in our office but many excellent FAs are speaking openly about their plans to leave. ML will not be the same as the best and brightest walk out the door. It’s a shame.