A FINRA arbitration panel ordered a former Merrill Lynch advisor to pay the wirehouse more than $400,000 in damages for breach of a promissory note and unjust enrichment.

Last week, the Dallas-based arbitration panel ordered Terrance Wilkerson to pay Merrill $213,062 in compensatory damages, $172,417 in attorney's fees, and more than $6,700 for filing and other administrative costs, including copying and mailing expenses.

"They're sending a strong message to the advisor by awarding the costs to Merrill Lynch," says Thomas Lewis, an attorney with Stevens & Lee in Lawrenceville, N.J. "By awarding costs to Merrill Lynch, including photocopying and mailing costs, the panel is sending a strong message that these claims likely should not have been filed."

Wilkerson, a financial advisor in Dallas, was with Merrill Lynch from 2009 to 2012, according to FINRA documents. The wirehouse discharged him on October 23, 2012 for allegedly violating the scope of an approved outside business activity and receiving payment that was not disclosed to management, according to a note from Merrill in his BrokerCheck file.

It was not clear from the records what outside business activity Merrill was referring to. According to BrokerCheck, Wilkerson is president of the alumni association of Dillard University in New Orleans, and treasurer of the Alpha Epsilon Education Foundation.

Merrill Lynch declined to comment. Wilkerson and his attorney did not return calls or emails seeking comment.

According to FINRA arbitration records, Merrill asserted that the outstanding balance of a promissory note Wilkerson signed when he joined the firm was due when he was discharged. Wilkerson was denied a counterclaim that sought $100,000 damages from Merrill for breach of contract, defamation, disparagement and interference with both existing and prospective business relations. He alleged that his termination was "not for cause," and that Merrill falsely reported his actions, the records show.

Wilkerson earned his Series 7 in 2000, according to FINRA. He worked at Morgan Stanley until joining Merrill in 2009. Since July, he has been employed at First Financial Equity Corporation, a full service brokerage firm.  According to his profile on the firm's website, he earned his degree in business administration from Dillard.

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