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Baird escalates pay dispute with its former recruiter

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A former recruiter who sued Baird for withholding bonuses now faces a countersuit from his ex-employer.

Nearly a month after Jason Kirkland filed his suit, the Milwaukee-based regional BD is denying Kirkland’s allegations of withholding bonuses in addition to filing its own claims.

Baird alleges that Kirkland took and used the firm's confidential information, broke his non-solicitation agreement and violated company policy by working elsewhere during his tenure, among other claims, according to court filings.

“The counterclaims are widely baseless ... To me it demonstrates some desperation,” says Doc Kennedy, Kirkland’s attorney and current employer at AdvisorLaw, a company that specializes in FINRA expungement and regulatory issues.

Both the attorney representing Baird and a spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Baird’s counterclaim was filed in the U.S. District Court for Colorado, after district Judge Eric Elliff approved a motion to move the case to federal court. The case was moved on the grounds that the dispute is between citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, according to the court filing.

In response to Kirkland's lawsuit, Baird says in its counterclaim that “[he] was compensated for all time worked and for the appropriate amount of wages ... Any loss damage, or injury [Kirkland] suffered was due to his own actions.”

Baird asserts that Kirkland broke company policy and is withholding funds he owes to the brokerage.

The firm claims that Kirkland was doing work for AdvisorLaw while he was still employed by Baird, despite explicit instruction prohibiting him from doing so.

Kirkland did ask about doing hourly work for AdvisorLaw while he was at Baird, according to Kennedy, who says he had been trying to hire him for some time. But Baird denied him permission, and “that was the end of it,” Kennedy says.

“He never worked for me [before his termination]. I never paid him a cent,” he adds.

The firm alleges that, since his termination, Kirkland has solicited at least one Baird employee and utilized confidential information, violating his 12-month solicitation agreement.

Kirkland currently works for Kennedy as AdvisorLaw's executive director. In his position he consults advisors that are considering new firms on what a transition would be like, says Kennedy. While Kirkland has helped one broker switch firms at AdvisorLaw since he was hired, he has never utilized Baird’s contacts or his relationship with the broker-dealer to do so, Kennedy says.

Regarding the confidential information Baird alleges Kirkland used, Kennedy says that the ex-recruiter did have access to spreadsheets on his personal computer. However, he claims the firm was aware of this, and that Kirkland removed them when he was fired.

“It’s all gone. It’s all deleted. That was the first thing we did within ten days of them firing him,” Kennedy says. Kennedy had a forensics team remove the content from Kirkland's computer. Kennedy still has access to the information — but only for the purposes of the lawsuit, he says.

“It’s not like [Kirkland] went out and tried to contact everybody using that spreadsheet,” Kennedy adds.

Finally, Baird is counter-suing Kirkland for failure to return unforgiven money from two promissory notes given to him during his tenure at Baird, initially worth a total of $200,000.

Upon receiving the notes, Kirkland agreed to pay any costs and expenses relating to the re-collecting of the notes — including any legal expenses, according to the claim.

The broker-dealer is requesting Kirkland repay any damages and legal fees in an amount to be proven at trial.

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