A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel says that Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) securities division in the U.S. must pay Jeffrey Howard, an ex-executive that it fired, $2.05M in compensatory damages because of the way he was let go. The bank must also retract his termination and expunge his regulatory record of any comments that are defamatory.
The FINRA arbitration panel’s case summary said that according to Howard, the bank fired him because it didn’t want people to find out that there was “significant internal turmoil” at the financial institution. Howard, who joined the firm’s RBS Securities in 2012 as head of its prime services for the Americas, eventually went on to become global-co-head of the group and then later its sole head. Previous to all of that he worked at Bank of America (BAC) Merrill Lynch. After he was let go by Royal Bank of Scotland in 2014, Howard filed a breach of contract and defamation case with FINRA contending that the disclosure about his firing was false.
According to the FINRA panel, Howard should not have been let go for cause. It found that the bank made fundamental mistakes and inconsistencies in: the way it interpreted internal policies and put them into effect, the facts it employed to decide to fire him, and the rationale behind that decision. The panel said that Howard did not violate any internal policies.
Regulators have been expanding their scrutiny of firms to look at their their culture, policies, leadership, and training. According to The New York Times, financial firm employees are becoming more willing to pursue ex-employers, especially when there are disclosures made on their U5 regulatory record upon their departure from a company. FINRA data notes that in January 2016 alone, there were 35 claims of breach of contract and 32 claims of wrongful termination, libel, defamation, and other contentions from ex-firm employees.
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Royal Bank of Scotland Loses Finra Arbitration Over Firing, The New York Times, March 7, 2016