By Caitlin Nish
NEW YORK--An arbitration panel has ordered Wells Fargo Advisors LLC to pay nearly $1.2 million to a former broker who was fired for violating email policy and then claimed the firm wrongfully denied him deferred compensation.
Just before Raymond John Kowalewski was scheduled to vest in deferred compensation programs, he was fired for violating Wells Fargo's email policy by sending content that could be considered "objectionable," said Charles M. Dalziel Jr., his attorney.
Mr. Kowalewski alleged breach of contract, among other claims, and asked a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel to award him compensatory damages of more than $1 million as well as health insurance charges, attorneys' fees and punitive damages.
His lawyer argued that the firm's penalty was too severe for the offense. The email content, Mr. Dalziel said, included some messages with "racial overtones" and some forwards that included "naked photos." Even if Wells Fargo were entitled to fire Mr. Kowalewski, who worked primarily as a commodities trader but had done some financial planning, he had earned the compensation prior to his termination, Mr. Dalziel said.
The Atlanta-based panel decided that Wells Fargo Advisors, a unit of Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), owes him nearly $430,000 in compensation for financial plans he had created, as well as roughly $696,000 in deferred compensation he earned while working at Wachovia, which was acquired by Wells Fargo in 2008. Mr. Kowalewski also received damages related to compensation he earned at Prudential Securities Inc., which merged with Wachovia, and health insurance damages. The panel denied his request for punitive damages and attorneys' fees.
As is customary, the panel didn't explain the reasoning for its decision, which was dated Wednesday.
A spokesman for Wells Fargo declined to immediately comment.
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