Raymond James' fight to nullify an adviser's $450,000 arbitration award against the firm has ended in a confidential settlement, three weeks after the broker killed himself.
Attorney Philip Snyderburn, who represented adviser Mark Immel, confirmed the settlement between the firm and Immel's wife, Kim, but declined to comment further.
A Raymond James spokeswoman also declined to comment.
The settlement draws a curtain on a contentious dispute, which had been ongoing since Immel, 52, was terminated from the firm's employee channel in 2014 for alleged loss of confidence and dragged on through FINRA arbitration forums and a Florida state court.
Immel's fortunes looked like they were improving earlier this year when an arbitration panel ordered Raymond James to pay the nearly 30-year industry veteran $450,000 for damages related to his dismissal, according to a copy of the award. Immel had argued that the firm profited unfairly from his termination by keeping his $80 million book of business.
Raymond James responded to his win by asking a Florida state court to quash Immel's award on the basis that the arbitrators' overextended themselves in their ruling, according to court documents.
A hearing date had been set for May 19, but Immel – who had been suffering from depression – killed himself from a gunshot wound on April 26, according to police, who found his body in his Chevy Suburban on the side of a highway in Florida. A life insurance policy and a note to his wife and four daughters were sitting on the dashboard, according to police.
His wife told police that Immel had suffered from back pain, anxiety, trouble sleeping and high blood pressure, according to a police report.
While at Raymond James, Immel had been a successful producer; in 2013 he was a member of the firm's Chairman's Club, earning a trip to Hawaii, according to documents seen by On Wall Street.
He was subsequently hired by G.A. Repple, a small brokerage firm. Yet despite the new job, Snyderburn said in an interview last month that his client had still been set back due to his dismissal and ongoing litigation.
"Financially, he watched the roof cave in. He was making half a million per year and it dropped to $60,000. He was draining his retirement savings accounts. He had two girls in college. It totally overwhelmed him," Snyderburn said.
When the arbitration panel ruled in Immel's favor, it had found Raymond James liable on three counts: unjust enrichment, interference with business relations and fraud. The latter charge was related to Morgan Keegan bond funds in which Immel had invested $540,000, according to arbitration filings.
Immel withdrew that claim because he had already participated in and received compensation from a class action lawsuit related to the funds. However, the panel included the fraud charge in its final ruling even though in the same award document it acknowledged that Immel had withdrawn the claim, saying "it did not consider any of claimant’s claims relating to" the funds, according to a copy of the award.
The arbitrators did not expand upon their ruling with regard to the alleged fraud.
Before a Florida state court, Raymond James argued that "the arbitrators went beyond the authority granted by the parties and decided an issue not pertinent to the resolution of the issues submitted to arbitration," according to court documents.
Snyderburn said last month that case law was on his client's side, as Immel and Raymond James had elected to resolve the dispute through FINRA arbitration, and the panel clearly found Raymond James liable on the other two counts.
"The courts are supposed to give great deference to arbitration forums. I've been doing this for 37 years. I can only remember two or three appeals during that time. You just don't see it," the Maitland, Fla.-based attorney said.
Immel had been working at Morgan Keegan for more than a decade when Raymond James acquired the troubled brokerage firm in 2013, according to his BrokerCheck record.
Snyderburn said the firm provided Immel no explanation for why he was fired.
The note contained in his CRD, which was filed by Raymond James, lists the reason for termination as "loss of confidence."
Immel has 19 client complaints on his record, per BrokerCheck. Nine were denied or withdrawn, while the rest were settled.
Of those that were settled, several of the complaints appear to be related to product failures. And for four settled cases, Immel said he was not a party to the settlement, according to notes contained in his BrokerCheck record.
Snyderburn said that his client was hit with four client complaints in 2013, and Raymond James was defending him in those cases when management decided to fire him.
During the arbitration case, the firm brought up those client complaints and further called Immel's allegations that the firm profited by keeping his book "absurd," according to arbitration filings.
To the extent that the firm profited from servicing Immel's clients following his termination, "this is a function of pure, American business competition," Raymond James said in the documents.
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