Finra arbitrators awarded $878,712 to a broker who they found was wrongfully fired by Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., but the victor will continue to serve a Finra suspension over a related investigation until April.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. arbitration panel ruled in a Jan. 23 decision that Ameriprise must pay Cheryle Anne Brady $675,000 in compensatory damages, $80,000 in costs and $123,712 in attorneys' fees. Ms. Brady asserted defamation, wrongful termination and breach of contract.
Ms. Brady's claim against Brian Joseph Noyes, a co-respondent and fellow Ameriprise broker, was denied. The arbitrators also denied a counterclaim by Ameriprise alleging that Ms. Brady broke her promissory note agreement.
"We believe justice was served and we believe the arbitration process was fair," said Peter M. Bizinkauskas, Ms. Brady's attorney.
Neither an Ameriprise spokesperson nor an attorney representing the firm and Mr. Noyes was immediately available for comment.
Ms. Brady was fired by Ameriprise in September 2016 after allegations that she made unauthorized trades and acted without clients' approval in non-discretionary accounts.
After a subsequent Finra investigation, Ms. Brady consented to a six-month suspension of her broker registration, which began in October 2017 and will last until April 15. Finra found that Ms. Brady's registered sales assistant placed 10 trades in nine customer accounts without their knowledge.
Ms. Brady told her Ameriprise supervisor that she had spoken with the clients, even though she hadn't. She did not admit or deny Finra's findings when she accepted the suspension.
But the arbitrators held that Ameriprise was wrong to fire Ms. Brady. They ordered that the reason for her termination be changed to "other" on her Form U5 and rewrote the language pertaining to the dismissal.
"Termination without cause," states the new U5 explanation. "There is no credible proof that Ms. Brady authorized the alleged trades or that she was involved in the alleged practice for which she was terminated. Ms. Brady's firing was pretextual, as there was no harm to any customers and no customer complaints. The trades were allowed to stand and benefitted Ameriprise Financial Services Inc. and its customers."
Ms. Brady's BrokerCheck profile lists three other customer disputes. Two were settled and one was denied.