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Mariner Sues Savvy For Poaching Advisors, $60M in Client Assets

Mariner is suing three advisors who recently left to join Savvy Wealth's RIA affiliate. In the suit, Mariner argues Savvy poaches books of business without “regard to contractual obligations.”

Mariner Wealth Advisors is suing Savvy Advisors after several advisors left for the latter firm. Mariner claims the trio of former employees took trade secrets with them.

In its suit filed in Ohio federal court this week, Mariner claimed former employees Brad Morgan, Nate Kunkel and Tim Gerard, with the help of Savvy, stole Mariner’s “confidential customer information, customer lists and customer contact information” and solicited Mariner customers, resulting in the firm losing $60 million in managed assets.

According to the complaint, Morgan had been employed at Mariner since 2014 (later becoming an equity owner in the firm), while Kunkel and Gerard came on board in 2018. Morgan, Kunkel and Gerard specialized in working with Proctor & Gamble employees based in Cincinnati (though not exclusively). 

The advisors had access to Mariner’s client information, including their investment portfolios, risk appetites and information that Mariner believed competitors would want to access to lure clients away from the firm. 

One of these competitors was Savvy, the affiliated RIA for New York-based fintech Savvy Wealth. The firm managed approximately $401 million as of March 31, and Savvy Wealth CEO Ritik Malhorta was one of’s “Ten to Watch” for 2024. The firm was founded in 2022 and, in Mariner’s view, has a growth strategy “centered on recruiting established wealth managers with existing books of business,” according to the complaint.

“Indeed, rather than cultivate customers through fair competition, Savvy seeks out experienced wealth managers from across the country to poach their books of business from competitors,” the complaint reads. “Savvy does this without regard to contractual obligations these wealth managers owe to their employers.”

As evidence Savvy intended to target Mariner, the latter firm claims Savvy recently closed a job posting based in Mariner’s headquarters of Overland Park, Kan., saying new employees would transition a minimum $15 million AUM book of business to Savvy. 

In the complaint, Mariner also claims Savvy intended to target Proctor & Gamble employees and retirees (including those serviced by Mariner). Around the time when Savvy recruited the Mariner employees, it added a page on its website soliciting business from clients affiliated with Proctor & Gamble.

According to Mariner, Morgan had been planning his defection since April 2024 despite signing a new non-solicitation and confidentiality agreement that month (Mariner claimed all three advisors had signed such agreements). 

Morgan later persuaded Kunkel and Gerard to join him at Savvy, and he allegedly spent all of May 11 forwarding personal appointments and activities from his Mariner email account to a personal account, according to the complaint. Additionally, Mariner accused Savvy of urging Kunkel to break an agreement that he give 90 days of notice before quitting.

“(Savvy) wanted Kunkel to immediately join Savvy for (the defendants) to begin soliciting and poaching Mariner’s customers from Mariner and direct them to a familiar face at Savvy,” the complaint read.

Representatives from Savvy and Mariner did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication.

The day after Mariner filed its suit, Savvy announced that Kunkel, along with three other advisors based in Sioux City, Iowa, Los Angeles and Tampa, would join the company. 

The accusations in Mariner’s complaint broadly parallel those Edelman Financial Engines makes in its lawsuit against Mariner Wealth, which manages more than $81 billion in client assets. Earlier this week, a federal judge dismissed some of Edelman’s claims but allowed charges of misappropriation and conspiracy to remain in place as the trial progressed.

This story has been edited for clarity.

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