Jeffrey Concepcion, 46, a veteran broker and manager for Lincoln Financial Advisors, alleged he was terminated after arranging a business venture on behalf of the company but before closing the deal, according to a ruling Tuesday by a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel.
Concepcion managed the Lincoln Financial Advisors offices—a unit of Lincoln National Corp.—in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, and was also a financial adviser when he was terminated.
Brokers seldom succeed in winning defamation cases, but those who have strong evidence can prevail, said Francis Curran, a lawyer at McCormick & O’Brien LLP in New York. Curran has no connection to the Lincoln Financial case.
Concepcion filed the case in late 2008, and asked for $4.8 million in damages at the time of his hearing in March. The arbitration panel found Lincoln Financial liable, but ordered the company to pay $2 million. As is customary, the panel did not provide a reason for its decision.
Just before his termination, Concepcion was negotiating deals with independent groups of financial advisers who planned to work mostly on their own but rely on Lincoln Financial for certain services, according to his lawyer, Andrew Kabat, of Haber, Polk Kabat LLP in Cleveland.
Concepcion argued that Lincoln Financial killed the deals and fired him for cause after realizing that he did not have a noncompete agreement that prevented him from potential work with other firms.
The company then informed Concepcion's office and the national management team that it fired him for cause, according to Kabat.
Lincoln Financial refused to offer Concepcion a severance package unless he signed an agreement not to compete with the company, he alleged. The company then "made and published" false information about his termination, telling his customers that he made a career change, according to the ruling. Lincoln implied that he "left the industry altogether," Concepcion alleged.
Concepcion established Stratos Wealth Partners in 2009. The wealth management firm, in Solon, Ohio, is affiliated with LPL Financial.