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JPMorgan sues $100M Merrill broker for ‘aggressive solicitation’

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A broker resigned from JPMorgan on the Friday before Memorial Day, and then over the holiday weekend, proceeded to call his clients’ cell phones to encourage them to move their assets to Merrill Lynch.

Now, JPMorgan is accusing that broker of “aggressive solicitation of clients,” both before he resigned from the bank and after he joined his new firm, Merrill Lynch, according to a lawsuit filed by the bank.

The bank claims advisor Gabriel Campbell’s actions violate a non-solicitation contract he had signed.

It's the most recent example of a large brokerage firm suing a departing broker for allegedly violating employment and non-solicitation agreements.

Morgan Stanley and UBS have filed several such lawsuits since leaving the Broker Protocol in late 2017. Wells Fargo recently targeted a $300 million breakaway team for allegedly violating protocol. And in April, JPMorgan sued a broker who oversaw $160 million in client assets and who moved to Ameriprise Financial. The broker had already moved about $25 million by the time JPMorgan filed that suit, according to legal filings.

At stake in the latest dispute are more than $100 million in client assets, which Campbell oversaw while working as bank advisor at a JPMorgan Chase branch in Bloomington, Indiana, according to the bank's lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in Indiana.

When Campbell left JPMorgan for Merrill Lynch in May, he took with him confidential client information, including cell phone numbers, according to JPMorgan. In the weeks prior to his departure, he is said to have used using the bank's contact manager system to view more than 200 client profiles, which contained their contact information.

"This type of accessing and viewing of contact manager is atypical and suspicious, and JPMorgan is not aware of any legitimate business reason justifying defendant’s atypical accessing of such profiles just days prior to his departure," the bank says in its legal complaint.

JPMorgan says this and other behavior is a violating of Campbell's employment agreement and the firm's code of conduct.

"As a Private client advisor, defendant was not expected to engage in cold calling or attempt to build a client base independent of referrals from JPMorgan. Virtually all of the clients defendant serviced at JPMorgan were assigned or referred to him by JPMorgan," the bank says in legal filings.

JPMorgan claims that at least four clients informed the bank that they had received calls from Campbell after he joined Merrill Lynch. The complaint also says one client expressed frustration and thought it was “odd and weird” that Campbell had called during the Memorial Day holiday on behalf of Merrill Lynch.

JPMorgan is seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Campbell from further soliciting clients. The bank is also pursuing a separate arbitration case, according to legal filings.

Campbell could not be reached for immediate comment. A spokeswoman for Merrill Lynch, which is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, declined to comment. A JPMorgan spokeswoman also declined to comment on the case.

Campbell has 11 years of industry experience, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. JPMorgan promoted him to private client advisor in 2013, according to regulatory filings.

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