Morgan Stanley began the week by announcing its departure from the Broker Protocol, and ends it with a slew of empty desks.

Nine teams that managed more than $6 billion left the wirehouse on Wednesday and Thursday for rivals J.P. Morgan Securities, Stifel and RBC Wealth Management. Four of the departures happened in New York City and included Colleen O’Callaghan, who ranked no. 1 on Forbes' Top Women Advisors in 2017.

Morgan Stanley's abrupt departure from the protocol, which has regulated recruiting moves since 2004, caused waves throughout the industry. Insiders have been speculating whether the other wirehouses will follow suit.

The policy change upended plans for brokers who intended to make a move in the coming weeks; they'll no longer have the protections of the protocol, which permitted them to take basic client contact information with them.

"It is safe to say that advisors of this caliber had already made the decision to depart, but likely accelerated that decision because of Morgan Stanley decision on Monday to leave the protocol," says recruiter Danny Sarch.

The wirehouses' smaller rivals, primarily regional brokerages and RIAs, have been on a recruiting tear while Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and UBS have pulled back on hiring new brokers.

Morgan Stanley said it was exiting the protocol because of other firms' gamesmanship of loopholes.

After Nov. 3, the wirehouse "will continue to expect departing advisors to honor their non-solicitation obligation after we exit the protocol," a spokeswoman said earlier this week.

Though they may sign non-solicitation agreements as part of their contracts, many advisors currently at Morgan Stanley joined under the protocol rules — something recruiters and competitor firms have been quick to note.

John Pierce, Stifel's head of recruiting, noted that it could feel like a "bait-and-switch" to see an advisor join a firm under protocol, then for that same firm to turn around and abandon it. He questioned whether a court would act against a broker departing such a firm under those circumstances.

"These advisors, for the most part, brought the clients and assets to their previous firm under protocol and it seems a little disingenuous to say the relationships advisors have worked so hard to build are owned by the firm, not the advisor," he says.

A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman could not be reached for immediate comment.

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Of the departures, the largest was a New York-based team led by O'Callaghan and Norm Thomas. The group managed over $3 billion in client assets while at Morgan Stanley, a J.P. Morgan spokeswoman confirms.

O'Callaghan and Thomas had been with Morgan Stanley since 2008; they previously worked at Lehman Brothers. She has 17 years of experience while Thomas has 31.

Also joining J.P. Morgan Securities in New York this week: the five-person Kolker Group, which oversaw $300 million, and advisor David Panzica, a 23-year industry veteran who managed $130 million.

The Kolker Group is led by advisors Jack Kolker, James Cordon and Barry Fleischer. They, like Panzica, had been with Morgan Stanley since 2009.

They all report to regional director Mike Lee, who said the firm's boutique model and platform has played a key role in attracting top talent.

"J.P. Morgan Securities has a strong and deep bench of advisors in place and we are always looking to strengthen that team," Lee said in a statement.

(Image: Bloomberg News)
(Image: Bloomberg News)

J.P. Morgan Securities also picked up two other mega teams from Morgan Stanley, the boutique firm confirmed. Boston-based advisors Patrick Corbett, Bob Mason, and Dan Warren managed approximately $1.2 billion in client assets. Wealth managers Frank Botta, Dan McCarron and Mike Coyne oversaw about $1.1 billion. They are also based in Boston.

And in Dallas, J.P. Morgan hired former Morgan Stanley brokers Joel Tannenbaum and Arthur Dale Mitchell. They oversaw more than $310 million in client assets.

Also leaving Morgan Stanley in New York are Ken Ramos and Gary Rudow, who joined Stifel. They oversaw more than $325 million in client assets, according to their new employer. Ramos and Rudow have 20 and 23 years experience, respectively, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records.

Moving with them are Leslie Collins, financial advisor associate, and Karen Yee, client relationship manager.

In Springfield, Illinois, Stifel picked up another Morgan Stanley advisor: Henry Enno, who has more than three decades of industry experience and managed $97 million.

RBC, meanwhile, picked up two young advisors from Morgan Stanley in Dallas. Paul Hendershot, 37, and Carsten Frederikson, 34, oversaw approximately $140 million, according to their new employer.

Like Stifel and other regional brokerages, RBC has been aggressively recruiting wirehouse talent this year. An RBC spokeswoman said the company has hired more new advisors in the first six months of 2017 than it did in all of 2016.