If you are employed by a bank, brokerage firm, hedge fund, private equity fund, insurance company, or other financial services company, you know that there are many intricacies unique to your work and your industry. There may be special rules that only apply to you and your colleagues because you work in a regulated industry. Most of your compensation might be based on year-end bonus pay or carry, and some of that compensation might be in the form of restricted stock or options and subject to deferral. You may be asked to sign certain documents — such as an arbitration agreement, confidentiality agreement (non-disclosure agreement or “NDA”) or a promissory note — that are not common in other businesses or industries. All of these unique elements make understanding your business and your work environment important to solving your employment problems and addressing issues concerning your work.
Offer Letters, Employment Agreements, and Severance Agreements
Outten & Golden attorneys are familiar with reviewing and analyzing offer letters and employment agreements, compensation plan documents, severance agreements, promissory notes, retention agreements and many other documents that employees in financial services jobs need to negotiate and understand fully. This includes review of provisions concerning garden leave, non-competition (sometimes termed “non-compete”) provisions, non-solicitation, and other restrictive covenants; guaranteed bonus pay or other compensation guarantees; salary or draw; commissions; severance; non-disparagement; disability, maternity/paternity, or family medical leave arrangements; accommodations for disabilities; notice pay; and myriad other issues. Often, financial services executives are moving from one job to another, and must negotiate appropriate exit terms while beginning to navigate a job search or negotiate an offer letter or contract with a prospective new employer.
Arbitration, Mediation, and Litigation
Outten & Golden attorneys include seasoned litigators familiar with court litigation but also so-called “alternative dispute resolution” processes, i.e., arbitration and mediation. This includes arbitration and mediation before FINRA, the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”), JAMS, and other entities. While you may prefer to negotiate your matter to a successful conclusion, it is sometimes necessary to sue in court or file an arbitration case in order to achieve a fair result. Even in situations where negotiation is possible, the reputation of counsel and the capability to succeed in court or arbitration are factors that can contribute to success. Outten & Golden has achieved some of the largest and most successful employment arbitration awards against some of the largest firms in the securities industry. Outten & Golden attorneys have also successfully negotiated and mediated many cases for their clients.
Breach of Contract, including Claims for Bonus Pay, Commissions, and Other Unpaid Wages
Financial firms will sometimes fire employees just before a bonus or other compensation is to be paid, including after an employee has worked a full year and provided important contributions to the employer’s bottom line. In other situations, employers refuse to pay earned commission or base salary, or renege on guaranteed bonus pay amounts or other incentive compensation. This refusal to pay earned compensation may violate contracts or agreements with the employee, or the employer’s own policies, or, at times, applicable statutes, which may allow for recovery of attorneys’ fees and penalties.
U-5 and U-4 Filings, Defamation, and Other Harm to Reputation
False or defamatory statements by an employer, including false information that is circulated broadly through filings such as U-5 Forms or U-4 Forms can end a career. It is critical to prevent these types of false statements, and to expunge or otherwise amend or correct improperly damaging filings. Harm to reputations can also come in the form of poor references, improper use of negative performance reviews, leaks to the press, or internal or external announcements. Employees often need help avoiding harm to their reputations, or putting an end to damaging statements or commentary by employers and former employers. Outten & Golden attorneys are familiar with issues that arise in this area.
Age, Gender, Race, Disability, and Sexual Preference Discrimination, Including Situations Involving Hostile Work Environments, Retaliation, or Constructive Termination / Constructive Discharge
Outten & Golden attorneys have handled a variety of important discrimination cases – both class action and on behalf of individuals – against securities industry employers. These include litigation and negotiation of gender, race, age, sexual harassment, LGBTQ, and other issues. To an extent greater than other employers, many companies in the financial securities industry have the wealth and power to put employees to an extreme disadvantage when disputes arise, using superior financial resources to try to make litigation and arbitration costly and inefficient for employees. Outten & Golden attorneys have overcome these and other tactics in their efforts to protect employees’ rights.
For employees in the financial services world, compensation can be complicated. Bonuses and other pay are often in the form of restricted stock, RSUs, options, or other deferred compensation. Requirements and rules for vesting, early retirement, and other issues are not straightforward and sometimes require interpretation. Many employees need help enforcing their right to be paid deferred compensation or avoiding an improper forfeiture when they change jobs or retire. Negotiations with prospective new employers often involve working out deferred compensation terms or understanding deferred compensation plans. Outten & Golden attorneys can assist with these and related needs.
Whistleblower and Retaliation Claims
Employees who are whistleblowers and call attention to company wrongdoing often face pay cuts, demotion, firing, or other retaliation. Employees who complain about hostile work environments and other discrimination can face the same fate. Outten & Golden attorneys can help evaluate which types of situations might support a viable claim against an employer, and lead to recovery of monetary damages, penalties, and/or attorneys’ fees.
Counseling to Assist with Difficult Managers, Disputes Over Compensation, Unfair Performance Reviews, Forced Retirement, or Other Efforts to Push Employees Out of Their Jobs
Outten & Golden attorneys understand that not every problem involves a legal claim or court case. Often, the experience and familiarity of Outten & Golden’s attorneys with issues in the financial services workplace allows them to help employees through difficult situations by providing advice and counseling, and without the need to file a lawsuit or engage in a formal negotiation. This approach has the benefit of keeping legal expense and burden to a minimum while still providing for a better outcome for the employee.
(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)